Saturday, December 12, 2009

Music of the night


It's been like one month ten days since my last post, and I can already see the cobwebs around this page. I suppose that's the thing when the current year is coming to a close, and we teachers are off on the long year-end break. We slow down....really slow down. We stretch out our legs, cup our hands behind our heads, shake off whatever else that is niggling us, and...

relax. Just relax.

But, I just wish that this relaxation isn't interrupted at night. You see, every other day the garbage truck does its rounds around here collecting all the refuse from each road around the housing estate. The service is usually reliable, so that's nothing to grumble about.

What irks me though is the time it comes: right smack in the dead of night. That's usually between two to four in the morning. And when the garbage collectors come, four things happen:

1. Dogs howl: This is about the first thing you'll hear, as if in welcome of the approaching blue truck. The many dogs from various houses in the neighbourhood start barking one by one, starting with one from afar, and slowly coming closer, building up to a crescendo.

2. The truck growls: Soon after the first few dogs start barking, then you'll hear the garbage truck - a deep, almost guttural sound that seems to come from the very bowels of that heavy truck. And just for greater effect, the driver seems to enjoy stepping on the throttle a little longer before shifting, making that low growl turn into something like the stampede of tens of pigs.

3. The bins thud: Not just one thud, mind you. But, if there were ten houses on your street, then that's ten thuds. And let's not forget the dragging of these bins to the truck (the wheels on these bins don't seem to be very hardy).

4. The collectors chatter: These worthy men are quiet most of the time, but occasionally they shout out orders or chat, or laugh, or do whatever it is that normal people do for communication. It's just that it's in the middle of the night.

And what's the outcome of all these four sounds coming together? A racket that's bound to wake you (and maybe even the dead) up. But, thankfully it lasts for only a short period. And then, it's back to listening to the more pleasant sounds of the night: snores.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Golden Rule

I'd say just about everyone thinks about money - from the poorest soul, to the world's richest person. It allows you to live comfortably, and it's one of the best motivators. How else do you explain you being willing to go through myriads of inconveniences (to put it mildly) just to get to that place called an office?

We're usually consumed by thoughts of how we can get more of it (either by doing more work, or by investing in something that offers good returns). But, how many of us think about how we can safely store it for use in times of need? I've been told that one of the best ways of doing so is by buying gold. Buying gold is often seen as a hedge against any sort of crises. The often given reason why buying gold is a good choice is that gold retains its value even when the usual monetary forms do not. After all, it's been used for ages!

And if you're like me, you would probably already have started a bit of that investment in gold - there's that gold ring that you may have as your marriage band, or that gold necklace that you wear round your neck, or those gold earrings. But, apparently you can also buy gold coins, actual coins made of gold, as a form of investment. These coins are sometimes referred to as bullion, but I think they refer to the same thing.

But, as usual, there's always the usual caveat: make sure you understand what your investment is all about and see whether it fits with your whole portfolio. Whether it be gold bullion or stocks, let your hard earned money do the working instead.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How good is your memory?

We've each got about 100 billion neurons (that's brain cells to you and me) in our brain. But, how do you explain that some people have better memory than others? Is it because, for the rest of us (or me, at least), a lot of those information-transmitting cells have been damaged? Or is it because people with good memory have somehow trained themselves to remember better?

Just this evening as I was putting Adelle to sleep, I was reminded of the remarkable organ enclosed in our head that is our brain. Part of the routine before Adelle goes to sleep is the bedtime story. She has one particular story that she likes very much, and that is the story of baby Moses. I've lost track of the countless times either my wife or I have read that particular story to her, but Adelle just doesn't seem to get tired of listening to it over and over and over again.

In fact, she's listened to it so many times, that you can just start off by reading the first word, and she'll continue telling you the story! And the amazing bit is she does it almost word for word. My wife told me that she could do this not too long ago, but I hadn't witnessed this extraordinary feat (to me at least) until today. She does miss out or changes certain words as she goes along telling the story, but still...

She hasn't quite memorised the whole 5 half-page story yet. I figure the last page hasn't quite assimilated into her being yet...hahaha. But, that's hardly what describes me. I see, and read the words. But, I don't remember much of them. The only bit I remember very well is the rhyme that's in the story which I've turned into a simple song to the tune of "Twinkle, twinkle little star". Adelle likes it, and she sings along whenever we come to that part:

Little brother in a boat,
God and I will watch you float,
While the river breezes blow,
Rest well in your basket low,
Little brother in a boat,
God and I will watch you float.

Putting words into song is always a good memory-helper, but I can't go round singing everything I need to remember, can I?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Getting pampered

Once in a while, it's nice to get away from it all and just go somewhere else to get pampered for a change. For the last couple of years, it's been a tradition for me, my wife and Adelle to go to a hotel somewhere to just spend the night and enjoy all there is to enjoy about staying at a hotel. We find it a refreshing break from the daily routine.

Anyway, if you're planning on doing the same thing somewhere really soon, Accor Hotels is here yet again with a massive Accor Hotels 3-Day Super Sale Asia Pacific - that means you get to enjoy the great prices as well right here in Malaysia! Of course, if you plan to travel to other places, you can also enjoy the same great price in Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore...well, wherever you can find an Accor Hotel.

There are over a million rooms nights available for sale so there's more than a high possibility that you'll get the enjoy the offer, but you still have to make up quick because the offer is good only from the 27 October till 29 October - that's today, tomorrow, and the day after only! You must book within this period! Hotel stay is between December 9 this year till April 10 next year.

Quick plan your Christmas holidays and enjoy the great stay at a lavish hotel!

Update (29.10.2009): It seems that this fantastic promotion has been extended for a further 24 hours! That means you can still make you bookings on the cheap till 30 October. How great is that?


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Doh! Nuts!!

I got burned.

Not my money, but my skin. Last Saturday, the whole family went for an outing with other church friends at Karambunai Lagoon Park, and the end result was that I was as red as a lobster and my skin was rather sensitive to the touch. Blame that condition on the banana boat ride (which was rather mellow this time round, as the boatman went slow because of the number of kids during our ride), and kayaking (about an hour's worth). But, now that I think about it, I guess the whole reason I did get sunburn was because I forgot all about slapping some thick white sunscreen on my body....

So, to prevent all the unsightly skin peel, I smeared some Johnson's cream (the one with vitamin E) all over the red parts. Now, if you've never known this, it really does work. Rub in the lotion a few times and it should work. After three days, the redness has more or less diminished and there's no sign of skin peeling anywhere. The wonder of it all...

Oh, also last Saturday Big Apple Donuts had some special offer: a 52% discount on their box of a dozen donuts. That basically means that you only had to pay RM13 for twelve donuts. Not a bad deal. So my wife and I went over to their outlet at City Mall, queued for about half an hour (!), and got our dozen. I think that day must have been their busiest for a very long time.

Wonderful (if, a bit pricey) donuts. Mmmmmm....


Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The pest control people came over yesterday to treat the house with some pesticides to prevent roaches and ants. So, a few hours after they left, I did the mopping up just to clean up whatever residue was left. And that was when I got it...a crick at my left waist.

I thought nothing much of it at first, but as I was finishing up, I had extreme difficulty in even wringing the mop. I cleaned up and went up for my shower, and suffered some more. Taking my shorts off was a painful ordeal, so was reaching for the shower cream which was on the floor. So, rather than just bending down and picking it up, I had no other choice but to squat, slowly.

Dressing up was as painful. I had to sit down to do it, and even that act electrified my pain receptors. Ugggh! I tried stretching, thinking that it would help, but the pain was too much to bear. Thankfully, sleeping wasn't much of a problem, but when I woke up this morning, my left ear was feeling a bit numb and sore. I had probably stayed in one position for much of the night to cause that.

It's amazing isn't it? Just one tiny part of your body is at unease, yet it discomforts the whole body. But, I'm glad to say that the pain has subsided quite a bit since then, but it's still there. At least I can bend down at my waist now without having to howl in pain.

Which, in my book, means I should be fit enough to play badminton tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pots and pans and other things grand

This is a post about me and the kitchen.

I suppose in general, guys and kitchens don't usually pair up very well; the traditional view would be that the kitchen is the abode of the fairer sex. But, if you don't already know I love eating. And I must say I do sometimes spend a bit of time in the kitchen. Apart from the dish washing, which is my usual duty, I do a bit of cooking when my 'expertise' is needed. I also know what to look for in cooking utensils to get your food cooked properly (here is a great source of information for all things kitchen and dining). But, just in case you didn't know, here's a quick tip: a pot or pan that is pure stainless is basically rubbish for good cooking since heat will not be distributed evenly. What you need is one which has a layer of some other metal like aluminium or copper at the bottom of the base for good heat distribution. On this website are other considerations you may want to think about before your next pot or pan purchase.

But, I must say I'm not very good at baking. I think I've only ever baked...err, attempted to bake once. This was during my college days and in my student residence we had those cookers that came with an oven. I saw a recipe for profiteroles (sort of like a puff) in a supermarket magazine one day and I thought, hey, that seems simple enough. But, instead of getting a soft puff, what came out of the oven looked more like a cookie- flat and hard. That was the end of the wannabe baker.

But, at least my wife's into baking a bit. Ever since we bought an oven (which was quite a decision since there were so many different kinds! I wish we saw this advice for ovens earlier - it would have made our decision-making so much easier) my wife has ventured into baking and successfully come out with more than edible cakes. She has yet to emulate my cookie success though!

But, if I had to make one purchase for the kitchen it'd have to be a blender. I have one but it's now used more for making fruit juices, one thing it can but doesn't do very well. So, if I were to get one I'm wondering if I should get a dedicated fruit juicer or should I go for a hybrid which blends and also juices (sort of like a better version of my current one)?

I guess more reading is in order.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Withdrawal symptoms?

Last week, we celebrated Eid ul Fitr (apparently that's how it's spelled in English). For many, it was a very welcome long weekend. For the privilege few (i.e. teachers like me), it was an even longer holiday - a full 10-blissful days of not having to go to school. Yet, a big celebration such as this (the other one being Chinese New Year) does have its drawbacks.

Among the citizens of Kota Kinabalu, we are proud of the tea-time culture that we have here. Go to coffee shops between the times of 3 and 5 p.m. and you'd have a hard time finding a place to sit. The popular coffee shops would be crowded with people - all having one common purpose: sitting down munch the many mouth-watering tea-time snacks on offer and chasing them down with their favourite cup of coffee or tea. One of the most popular would be Fook Yuen, which serves the best toast bar none, and one of the best places to go to for hot drinks - the coffee's strong, the tea with milk's just nicely smooth, and the Milo's just thick - the way I like it!

But, the thing is, when it comes to Chinese New Year, or the Hari Raya celebrations like last week, this shop closes. That's the drawback. Favourite eating haunts close during such occasions and for Fook Yuen, it closed for a week (even longer for Chinese New Year!). So, what happens to all those tea-time happy hours? What becomes of the people who need their fix of the bread and drinks?

I suppose we'll have to make source for other means of getting it especially during those 'those trying' times.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


My wife showed me a couple of interesting short films just now and I must say I was quite impressed. Both had a rather strong message they wanted to send across, and the best thing was, both all had to do with Malaysia. If you didn't know already, there's a website showcasing 15 short films made by 15 Malaysian film makers and it's called 15Malaysia.

I haven't watched all the films yet, but the ones that I've seen (five, so far) deal with a broad range of topics, from public apathy, politics, to social issues and even religion(!), all told in our very own Malaysian context, so you'll find more than a smattering of Malaysian-ness in all these films.

That's not all. You'll also see quite a number of very familiar faces in some of the films. See if you can recognise the many Malaysian celebrities, all lending their talents and voices for these sometimes humourous yet very insightful commentaries on life in Malaysia.

Who knows? This nifty film-making project might even help the way we Malaysians see our true selves.

Go watch them already.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Grandaddy of all ships: The MV Doulos

Just a word of warning: this post is photo heavy, but if you'd just wait a bit, I'm sure it's worth it. :)

Today was a rather special day. My family and a few other friends had the opportunity to visit the MV Doulos. Now, I know that to some of you this is nothing out of the ordinary, but I'm sure you'd change your mind if I said that all of us managed to get a tour INSIDE the ship. How many of you have done that?

The MV Doulos is here

GBA - Good Books for All

Okay, okay. I'll stop bragging. But, the few times I've been onboard the Doulos, my experience of the ship was merely restricted to the bookshop and nothing else. So, I was pretty excited when I was presented with the opportunity to actually go inside the ship and see for myself the different parts of this sea-going vessel.

My passport in

Did you know that the MV Doulos is the oldest ship still in operation? It was built just two years after the more infamous, more illustrious Titanic (which has long before sunk to its watery grave) in 1914. It went through several incarnations in its long history of service: firstly a cargo ship (Medina), then as a ship in the service of the US Coast Guard, after that a passenger ship (SS Roma), then a luxurious cruise ship (MV Franca C.), and finally, just when it was to be decomissioned and sent to the scrap heap, it was purchased and made into a floating bookfair (MV Doulos, Greek for 'servant').

Hong Youn Sook, an 8-year crew member, giving us the history of the ship

It's for real: This ship is really old! 95 years now!

So, our tour round the ship started with the brief history of the ship in the main lounge, and then we moved along to the VIP room which housed the original key of the SS Medina (when it was till a cargo vessel) as part of the glass table in the centre of the room.

The VIP room - notice the ship's wheel? That's the original from when it was first built!

As we moved from place to place, we noticed on the walls in various parts of the ship some colourful pieces of paper pasted on them, usually proclaiming someone's birthday or just saying what a wonderful friend so and so is. All this lends a cheerful atmosphere to the place.

Colourful notes adorn the walls in several sections of the ship

The next stop was the laundry room, where articles of clothing and others are separated before washing. Just look at those commercial-sized washing machines! The laundry for almost 200 people on board is done in this room.

Commercial-sized washing machines!

You gotta keep 'em separated!

Along the way to another part of the ship, we were introduced to Delilah. Delilah holds a very special position among the crew of the ship. She's the one who makes sure that the safety crew are up-to-speed in their rescuing skills. You see, Delilah is the resident training dummy. All new hands with the safety crew will undergo training with her; she's thrown overboard, and it is their job to 'save' her.

Help wanted: Hero

Delilah seems happy about her role on the ship. Just look at her!

On the way to the bakery, we passed the clinic and this very intersting door. I couldn't help taking a picture of it as it was just so colourful.

International door

The bakery is where all the food is prepared and where crew members go to get ingredients if they wanted to do a little cooking of their own. We were told that all the fruits and vegetables to be used would be sourced locally from whatever city the ship was docked at, but meat was supplied directly from Germany. I don't recall now how they actually transferred the meat to the ship. Sorry!

Need for food

Spick and span kitchen: the place where tummy meets yummy!

Then, we had the opportunity to look inside one of the cabins. Compared to the room I sleep in, this one was like a sliver! The usual arrangement is that you'd be given a room with two bunk beds. So that's four to a room, and each room mate would be from a different country to encourage intermingling and to get to know each other's cultures better.

Next stop was to the heart of the ship - the engine room. It was a dark, noisy and humid place. Manna, the person on duty, showed and explained to us the various places in the engine room and the work that the people stationed here had to do (maintain, troubleshoot and fix - basically, to ensure that the ship keeps running). Apparently, if the ship developed an engine fault while at sea and needed a part to fix it, the engine crew would have to fabricate it then and there. So, these people not only have to keep the engine running, they also have to be blacksmiths!

It's a very noisy place!

Personalised ear-guards

The life of the ship

The workshop cum R & R place

Giant cylinders - all 16 of them

Controls for gohead-gostan

A spot of colour in the otherwise drab-looking surroundings

And then he showed us the CO2 alarm. Manna said that if you heard this alarm, then you'll only have 20 seconds to escape from the engine room before carbon dioxide is released into the room to put out any fires inside. Failing which, he said, then it's off to see your Maker, which is a good thing. How comforting...

The death knell? No, but you'd better escape in a hurry when this sounds!

Our final stop was the dining hall for a rest and a drink. This hall used to be the banquet hall when Doulos was a luxury cruise, the MV Franca C., while the place where the bookshop is, used to be where a swimming pool was. We even spotted the original but tattered menu from the cruise ship - the date reading October 4 1958. Cool, huh?

The original menu from the MV Franca C.

Having rested a bit, we proceeded outside and browsed the bookshop before heading home. It was a very rewarding and informative tour. It almost makes me want to go onboard and serve...


The expansive dining area

p.s. The next port of call for the MV Doulos is Pasir Gudang, Johor before heading for some repairs at the dry dock in Singapore.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Swatting flies

We Malaysians love food, don't we? I think eating can easily be considered one of our most favourite unofficial pastime. But, having said that, we don't just gobble up everything that is laid before us. We choose, we pick, we select what is good and what is not. How else do you explain the fact that one restaurant can be bursting to its seams with customers when just a few doors away, the staff just spend their hours looking at the floor?

There has got to be something about that popular restaurant. I think it's all a matter of three very simple qualities:

1. Good food
The main reason you go to a restaurant or an eatery is to eat. You spend time, energy and money to get to a particular food joint and the least you expect is to get some good food in return. I mean, why bother going out for a meal if all you're going to receive on your plate is some crummy food which you could have cooked yourself is worst than your cooking?

2. Good service
The food served at a particular place can be the best in Malaysia (and some even say, Singapore), but if the service is horrible, then in my book, I'd rather spend my money elsewhere. How are you every going to enjoy the food if you're constantly getting frustrated by the inept staff that is supposed to attend to you?

3. Good value
You pay a certain premium for the food before you and you expect to be rewarded with a taste that is in proportion to or beyond what you have paid (although it is possible to get extremely delicious food at very affordable prices if you know where to go). Anything less, and the probability of you ever stepping into that restaurant decreases exponentially very quickly.

There you have it - three simple attributes for keeping your food business thriving. But, I'm sure you've patronised a number of eateries that don't quite achieve that mark. I know I have and there's one place in particular that I've visited not too long ago.

It's hard to say no to a delicious plate of chicken rice. And I'm always on a lookout for restaurants that offer great-tasting chicken rice with a decent price to boot. However, Jesselton Chicken Rice wasn't one of them. I've only ever visited that restaurant once, and that was more than enough. I had ordered a set which meant a plate of chicken rice with a drink, all for Rm8++.

The verdict: the chicken that arrived was cold, and not especially tasty. The drink, which was supposed to be some fruit juice, turned out just to be a poor syrup substitute. My wife's wasn't any better as well. If we had gone to a respectable chicken rice shop, we'd have gone out satisfied with spare change. We vowed that that would be the first and last time we ate there. And I thought, it'd be only a matter of time before this joint closes down.

When the whole family visited City Mall (where the restaurant was) yesterday for dinner, lo and behold, the prophecy has come true. The restaurant was dark, and on it's swinging doors was stuck a piece of paper which read "CLOSE" in red ink. Permanently,

I know I sound bad, but when it comes to food, I guess that's just the way it is. If your food tastes terrible, then people won't come. And when people don't come,'s just ta-woo-ying time (pardon my Cantonese. It's as bad as my Greek!) and an inevitable end.

p.s. Just in case you're wondering why the title to this post is "Swatting flies" - well, that's what ta-woo-ying means, and if my wife has taught me correctly, it refers to a situation where there isn't any work to be done. Hence, all you do is swat flies. :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Roller coaster weather

The English always seem to find the weather a good topic to start a conversation on, so let's be English for a moment.

The weather here has been quite topsy turvy (is that spelled with or without a hyphen?). Last week, it was thunder, lightning, strong winds and lots of rain. So strong were the winds that the trees in front of my house fell over and obstructed part of the road. Twice! The trees had rather thin trunks and were not all that strong to begin with, but to have trees toppled over by the winds on two separate occasions within a space of three days is something. Fortunately, I have a rather civic-minded neighbour two three doors away who voluntarily hacked up the trees and cleared up the roads. Thanks neighbour!

And it was so wet that at least one main road at a hillside just outside the city collapsed due to a landslip. There's another similar road which I use occasionally to get back from work if traffic is a bit heavy, and these past few days, I have been seeing men doing some kind of project along that road. My guess is they're trying to prevent a similar fate happening to the road.

But, that wild wet weather has gone, and in the space of a few days, has been replaced by heat and dryness. And the haze is back though the air quality hasn't quite deteriorated yet.

I'm just waiting if the weather will come full circle and we'll be greeted by more thunderstorms and wet. Then, many people will have a whale of a time falling sick...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Adding fuel to the fire

I have been sick the whole of the past week - the most major being the cough (I'm quite sure it's not due to H1N1). This has got to be the worst cough I can remember. The typical day would start off with hardly any signs of my cough. Yes, I'd cough here and there throughout, but if you didn't know, you'd think it's just the usual cough that sometimes normal, healthy people get as well.

But, come evening that tickle in my throat would start every now and then and it gets increasingly more frequent, and as a result I'll cough more often. When bedtime comes, I'd be coughing every 5 seconds or so and try as I might to sleep, even after having taken medication that's supposed to induce me to sleep, I couldn't.

I'd cough, and I'd cough, and cough, and cough...until the wee hours of the morning. I'd eventually get maybe an hour or two's worth of sleep. So, you can imagine how tired I'd be when I do get up. Fortunately (or is it unfortunately for me...), my wife was able to sleep through all the ruckus without any hint of disturbance! How comforting...

So, last night I decided to go against all reason. I drank cold water, I ate a lot of spicy murukku, ate some chocolate - all food which would usually be considered pantang (forbidden) for people with cough.

And what do you know - I slept like a baby last night.

Go figure.

Monday, August 31, 2009

52 years of freedom: But how free are we?

As I'm writing this, I'm waiting for my flight back to Kota Kinabalu. After a week-long break from school (and an even longer break from this blog!), a bit of spare time has provided me the perfect opportunity to leave a little of my thoughts again in this long neglected blog of mine.

Oh, before I forget: Happy Merdeka! Yes, that yearly celebration of that great momentous event in our nation's history is here once again. And after 52 years of independence from foreign rule, more than ever, this day is perhaps the best day to reflect and ponder about how far we have actually come.

As far as physical development of the country is concerned, I would say it has changed dramatically. Even in the rather slow pace of life in a town like Kota Kinabalu, you'd be hard pressed to find anything that hasn't changed even in the last 20 years. Tall, modern buildings have shot up; spacious shopping complexes are mushrooming left, right and centre; massive projects to improve infrastructure like roads and water supply and housing are constantly seen.
Yet, I can't help feel that such tangible advances haven't quite gone hand in hand with the less tangible, perhaps more important aspects of the nation.

For example, how much more progressive is our attitude now when it comes to using a basic facility like the toilet as compared to years ago? How about when it comes to common courtesy like giving up your seat in a bus or train for those who need it more, or even when it comes to boarding such a vehicle - do we line-up and patiently wait our turn?

Do we try our best to turn up on time for an appointment, or do we think why bother when other people will only be late anyway? How good are we at saying a simple word of thanks after others have helped us no matter how small the favour, or even when it is part of their duty to do so?

When I think of these and other things, I see how far Malaysia still lags. During my recent trip to Thailand, a total stranger who runs a shop offered to drive the five of us to a restaurant which was at least a five-minute drive away. And we were not even customers! All this done with a smile.

We may bowl over people who come to this country with the tallest towers, the most beautiful beaches, the most delectable foods, but I think what leaves the deepest impression is the people of the nation. And in this respect, we can be a whole lot better.

I suppose, ultimately, we're still not free from one aspect that still shackles us- fear: the fear of losing - position, comfort, money, votes are some I can think of right now. I'm sure you can add a whole lot more to the list.

So, this Independence Day, what would you like to be free off? And where can one start? Just before boarding the plane, I'll sign off with a line from one of the late Michael Jackson's songs:

"I'm starting with the man in the mirror."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The box

I think of the most fundamental electrical appliances that people in just about any household is that one that possesses the ability to provide you with endless hours of entertainment: the television. Sure, with all broadcasting stations slowly moving towards digital transmission nowadays, I guess more televisions will be sold to be on par with the technology.

But, what's a television without a good and reliable service provider, right? Here, we have several pretty reliable free-to-air channels, but I think that's hardly enough for programming for the discerning tastes of today's tv viewer. Of course, we have our very own satellite tv provider, but the kind of service is still somewhat wanting - just look at what happens when it starts raining.

Wouldn't it be great if we had more choices than the seeming monopoly of our single service provider as in the US? Then, we can sign up with companies such as Direct Satellite TV and at the very least provide some much needed competition. From their website, they offer free equipment, and free installation! Nothing boosts the quality of service like a little competition. While I'm no television fanatic, the service provided by the likes of Direct Satellite TV sure makes me want to stay in front of the tv, though that may not be entirely healthy.

But, the best thing (if you just can't live without your daily dose of tv) is that you don't have to worry about moving even to a different state. You'll have your uninterrupted Direct TV in Florida, even if you moved from New York!

Now, I wonder if our sole nationwide satellite tv provider provides this kind of service.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Gallivantings: Part 1

This new post officially means that I'm back from my roadtrip. In case you're wondering where it was that I went to it was that town in the east coast of Sabah that was once dubbed "Little Hong Kong". Know which town I'm referring to yet? It's Sandakan. Since my in-laws are here, and my wife and I have been toying around with the idea of driving to Sandakan for quite some time now, it gave us the perfect reason to go.

I think this is the furthest I've ever driven anywhere in Sabah, though not the furthest I've ever driven. A one-way trip from my place to Sandakan town is about 350km, so the round trip means that I've probably clocked 700km in within three days. And that's not including the day trips to the various places of interest around Sandakan. what can I say about the drive there? Nothing short of bumpy. Really, really, really bumpy. There were a few stretches along the road where putting my foot down on the brake pedals was an almost minute by minute affair because I would suddenly see a depression ahead of me. But, once we got to within 40km of the town, the roads are actually quite good. I'd say the roads around Sandakan and its suburbs are even better than the ones I find around Kota Kinabalu!

We made only two stops along the way. The first was at the cool highland town of Kundasang. We made the Pine Resort our resting place to get something to bite and to also enjoy the refreshing air. After that, we made our way until we reached a small row of shops (I don't remember the name of the place now) which was probably about an hour's or so more to reach Sandakan. By the time we reached our supposed place for lodging, it was almost 4 pm. That made it almost 7 hours of travelling. Whew!

Our initial plan was to stay at this interesting place we found on the Net which is situated very near Sepilok, that renowned spot for orang utans. My wife chanced upon it while reading up on places to stay in Sandakan, and this place sounded intriguing and received some good reviews. So, we arrived at Paganakan Dii and the place looked just like in the pictures on it's website: a one-of-a-kind place.

Place for happy times

Paganakan Dii - The Family

But, and this is a big but, the place was full! Thinking that since it wasn't a public holiday, or a school holiday, there would be no need to make any reservations, we just went there confident that rooms would be available. Not only were there no rooms available there, there we no rooms available at the other resorts around Sepilok as well! Not one single room. Everything was fully occupied.

So, that basically laid to rest our plans of seeing the orang utans first before heading into Sandakan town the next day. So, we asked the person serving us if their sister hotel, Nak Hotel, in town (we read up on this as well) had any vacancies and they had one left - thankfully for us, a family-size room that could fit all five of us. So, since our accommodation was settled and there was nothing much else to do, we got back into the car and drove to town. But not before we got a tour of the place first!

Unique embellishments decorating the whole place

This is the place for some serious R & R!

White drapes provide shade at the open-air viewing deck

Clever use of the kuali as a washbasin!

The whole place is surrounded by these views!

Kamsan who kindly showed us around the place

We're definitely staying here the next time we visit. Stay tuned for the next post!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Road trip

I'll be away. See you when I get back.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A run in the sun: Sutera Harbour 7K Charity Run 2009

I wanted to blog about this yesterday but I was too pooped to do so. So, after a good night's sleep, I thought I'd write about it this morning before the details of yesterday's event became fuzzy.

We arrived at the Sutera Harbour for the run just before it started, and boy, the place was absolutely full of people. Many were wearing the official t-shirts, but quite a number as well were not. I suspect they joined the run just for the fun of it. The Sutera Harbour 7k Run is a yearly event, and I'd say it's almost like a big community event. It's basically a charity event: the recipients of the proceeds from the event being the Sabah Chapter of the Special Olympics and the Sabah Thalassemia Society. And while this is only my second time joining this, I think the turn-out every year is huge. This year, according to newpaper reports, more than 10,000 people showed up in support of the event!

The event has some interesting traditions in keeping with the number 7 theme. It starts at 5.07 pm, that's 1717 hours, and if you finish it in 77 minutes, you're eligibile for a lucky draw. I remember the first ever time it was held, and it was held on the 7th day of the 7th month in 2001.

Anyway, we brought Adelle along for the run and she was pretty excited about it as we had been telling her about it before this. But, surely you can't expect a two-and-a-half-year-old child to walk the whole seven kilometres would you? So, being the smart parents that we were, we brought along her stroller - for her to sit in (which she did most of the time any way). My wife did the pushing since I lagged behind trying to take some decent pictures of the event (which I didn't). I tried to catch up, mixing a brisk walk with the occasional short-distance trot. The funniest thing was, as I was making myself out of the hotel grounds, I already saw a number of people returning!

I was quite surprised by the weather. It had been raining the past two days in the evening with strong winds but the weather was just perfect yesterday: no sight of dark clouds, and not a single drop of rain. The sunset was quite beautiful and it wasn't very hot, so conditions were just about perfect. I finally caught up with my wife and Adelle just past the half way mark, and we walked together after that. All of us reached the finish line but I think it was past the 77-minute cut-off time, since there was no where to register ourselves for the lucky draw when we finally crossed it. Oh well, another time perhaps.

There was other programmes lined up for the evening: a concert by several local artistes, a lucky draw, foodstalls to buy food from, and others, but we didn't stay. We just helped ourselves to some of the free drinks that were available (Adelle has discovered the good taste of 100 plus!) and then left. Since I parked the car quite a distance from the starting line, I had to walk another kilometre or so to get it and pick-up my wife and Adelle.

It was a fun-family outing, and I'd highly recommend it for a healthy family do-together activity if you've never joined it before. For more photos, please visit my photoblog.

Adelle getting into the swing of things at the start of the run.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Things that go bump in the night

"Do you believe in ghosts?"

That was the question I was asked during an interview a long time ago. I remember that situation quite vividly. There I was sitting down in front of a panel which comprised of four interviewers. My hands were clasped together feeling quite clammy, and my legs quivered as if they had their own built-in motor. While waiting for my turn, I had prepared myself to answer factual questions, questions that would test my knowledge and logical thinking, questions that would enable the panel to make precise decisions based on the organisation of my ideas, the maturity of my answer, and the depth of my analysis.

But this?

"Err, no. I don't believe in them," I blurted out. "But, I do believe in spirits."

As soon as those words left my mouth I knew I had to think quickly of what exactly was the difference between those two. I don't remember now what my exact answers were but that question has stuck with me because of some recent events. So, is there such a thing as ghosts?

Popular culture would seem to confirm that there is such a thing as a ghost. You are told about it on the tv, in the cinema, in magazines, in books; you sometimes hear ghost stories from friends as well, events that seemed to have affected people closer to you.

But, if you asked me, then I'd have to answer the question with another question: what's your understanding of the word 'ghost'? Does it refer to the spirit of someone who's died? Or is a ghost, a spirit being?

If you're Christian (or even if you're not), consider this passage from the Bible:

Hebrews 9:27
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment...

The Bible declares that man dies only once, and after that he is judged. There is no mention of an in-between state. You die, then you're judged. But at the same time, the Bible also teaches about spirit beings who can somehow manifest themselves in our world and connect with it. Of these there are two: angels and demons. Angels are servants of God, faithfully serving Him. Demons on the other hand are evil, deceptive and destructive. Their primary modus operandi is that of trickery: disguising themselves as servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:15). And while such spirits can sometimes seem to do good (as in giving some useful information or a warning), it is their nature to deceive. Their intent is only one: to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

That's why Christians are called to test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1). And how do you know whether a spirit is of God or not? Read 1 John 4:2.

So, after all that lengthy explanation, do I believe in ghosts?

No, I don't believe in them. But I do believe there are spirits.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A talk with a stranger

I woke early this morning. Extremely early. It was even earlier than the time I'd wake up to go to school. And what would drive me to wake up at such an insane hour on a cool-sleep-inducing early Saturday morning? A photoshoot.

My cousin Alvin had asked me last week to help him out with a family photoshoot at Tanjung Aru this morning, and never having the experience of such a task, I gladly agreed. So, I got up when everyone else was still in dreamland and got ready and drove to Tanjung Aru. The shoot was at Shangri-la Tanjung Aru Resort and it was a blast. If you're interested you can check it out at my photoblog.

But, the reason I'm posting is that when we arrived, a lady was looking at the swallows which kept flying near the windows of the reception area. Then as we wanted to go to the garden grounds below, out of the blue she talked to me and said how amazing the birds were and how wonderful it was to be in Sabah. Not wanting to be rude, I said it was. Then she asked me if I was a guest and I answered that I was just visiting. I bid her farewell and thought nothing more of it.

After we were done with the shoot, we were leaving on our way up the stairs when we chanced upon the same lady again. Again she asked where we were from, and I guess she remembered because she blurted out the words 'KK'. Then, seeing that we were holding cameras she went on to ask questions about who we were and so on. And after talking about her life in British Columbia, Sandakan and Singapore (all in a span of 10 minutes!), my cousin and I found ourselves being persuaded about the benefits of becoming a yoga practitioner. By this time, all three of us were already sitting down. I guess my cousin and I were just being too polite. We actually wanted to go somewhere to review the pics we had taken, and so we 'endured' and made polite conversation with this lady. Towards the end, she gave me a photocopy of this supposed master, and asked me to read it. She even offered to possibly meet up in Canada if we ever headed over there.

We managed to excuse ourselves soon after and then went to Coffee Bean for some fake cool-air comfort and some ridiculously expensive drinks. That encounter with the woman got me thinking: she was basically hot-calling: strike up a conversation with anyone and introduce them to something that seems worthwhile. And she was doing it with all earnestness, too.

She's got guts.

Friday, July 10, 2009

And the verdict is...

That Maths and Science will not be taught in English beginning 2012. This will be a huge sigh of relief for a number of people, while others will lament a lost opportunity. Well, it has been said often enough and I guess I'll be saying the same thing that's on a number of people's mind: be ready for changes whenever a new Education Minister takes office. It's been proven time and again.

I remember when Anwar Ibrahim used to be Education Minister since I was in seconday school then. He was the guy who introduced that silly idea of starting the schoool academic year in December. Then, it was reverted to its original start in January when the next minister came in. I don't remember what Najib did when he was Education Minister after that as I was already in college, so that doesn't count. When the non-politician Musa Mohamad took over, English for Maths and Science was introduced. When Hishamuddin came into office, it was the introduction of a compulsory but non-examination subject called Civics and Citizenship in 2005. And now we have Muhyiddin with the scrapping of the teaching of Maths and Science in English. Oh, and the talk is he plans to introduce subjects like grammar and composition and English literature as well. And that's in addition to the plan to increase the number of teaching hours, too!

While I'm not against change, but when that change is not calculated carefully and not planned with a long-term eye, it can only be described as haphazard and will ultimately be detrimental to the students and the teachers who have to face more headache and (in this case, potentially) more time doing even more paperwork.

It really makes me wonder where exactly it is the education of our young minds is heading...

Eventhough teachers may rant, complain, and whine all we want, but at the end of the day it just boils down to one thing:

"Saya yang menurut perintah."


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Movie day

After more than half a year of not going to the cinema (the last movie we watched was Beverly Hills Chihuahua), my wife and I were finally able to go again today. We asked a close friend if she could help babysit Adelle for a couple of hours and she was more than happy to take up the offer (how kind!). So, that enabled my wife and I to go to the cinema and watch a movie in relative peace; I say relative because we found out that there were other young children in the cinema. And you know how it is with young children and attention spans.

I have been wanting to watch the second installment of Transformers, but we decided not to go since the show time wasn't right, and it is such a long movie according to reports. So, we went to watch Ice Age 3 instead. I found it entertaining enough, and so did my wife, but it wasn't uproariously funny as some would have it to be. But, I guess our funny bones all tickle a different way as I found out during the show.

In front of us sat a family (whom I guessed were made up of a mom, a father, children, sisters, and even grandmother!), and during one of the sequences in the movie, I noticed how this young lady in front (one of the sisters) giggled and laughed throughout that part. I looked at her, then I glanced at my wife. She only had a half-smile on her face. I thought the sequence only mildly amusing at best as well. I thought to myself: what a contrast in response to the same movie!

But, we enjoyed the movie nonetheless. However we both thought the first was the better one.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Eat to live, live to eat

The subject of food never fails to interest me - especially if it concerns new locations where you can find great tasting food. We Malaysians are willing to go to great lengths to search out that sometimes elusive motherlode of delectable delights. I mean I've heard stories of people who drive all the way to Ipoh early in the morning from Kuala Lumpur just to treat themselves to some dim sum there. That's a two-and-a-half-hour journey! Ridiculous? These people certainly don't think so.

While it is possible to get 'replicas' of those famous foods just about anywhere in Malaysia, there is nothing like the original. That's one statement I can heartily testify to. My in-laws live in the royal town of Klang, where a certain river that runs through Kuala Lumpur gets its name. It's renowned for a few things - like crows. Lots of them. It's also famed for it's seafood. But, as far as I'm concerned, Klang's most famous commodity should be its bak kut teh. It's simply second to none.

Now, you may snicker at this, but trust me, if you even have a slight liking for bak kut teh, even the tiniest, itsy-bitsiest fondnest towards that soupy herbal preparation, then you owe it to yourself to at least drive, fly,walk to Klang and try out the bak kut teh there once. It should be on the "100 things to do before you die" list. Every other bak kut teh I've ever tasted just pales in comparison.

So, when we had bak kut teh for dinner this evening, it was just a foreshadow of the real taste of the real thing when we go back there. My wife said that there was no satisfaction eating the bak kut teh here just now. And I agree. It's not like the bak kut teh was bad (after all, the shop we went to is one of the more famous shops here in town), it's just that we've tasted the best! So, every time the family goes back, my in-laws make it a point that we feast on bak kut teh at least once during our stay.

In case you're wondering, no, chicken just doesn't cut it.

Kota Kinabalu bak kut teh - good, but no where close to Klang's!

p.s. My wife also commented on how different people eat bak kut teh here in Kota Kinabalu and in West Malaysia. I think KK people generally eat their bak kut teh with big chilies, garlic, and a dollop of thick black soya sauce to eat with the dish. However, this doesn't happen in West Malaysia. There is chilli but it's the small variety, and there's not thick soya sauce - only the light one.

Sabahan-style eating with chilli (left) versus West Malaysian-style (right)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson: RIP

Not having read the papers or listened to the radio today, I was shocked to see that the eminent entertainer, Michael Jackson, has passed away. The last piece of news I read about him was about his preparations for his big comeback to the music scene. But, it looks like it's not going to happen no.

I'm not a very big fan, but I've more or less been following on the fringes his life and his music. While his eccentricities have often dominated news about him these past many years, I've listened to enough of his songs to know that he was a very capable song writer and singer, and dancer to boot.

So, the world has lost a great entertainer - perhaps one of its best. Goodbye, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A time to reminisce

I'm not sure about you, but sometimes I feel as if time seems to move faster nowadays; so much so, that sometimes life just becomes one great long blur. You don't remember what happened just a few days ago, let alone a few months back. Having said that however, I'm sure there are those moments in your life which somehow just stays in your memory, despite happening ages and ages ago. I have quite a few, but I'm not going to pour them all out to you!

I do have one thing to share though, and it happened more than 20 years ago, way back when I was still in my first years of secondary school. It was not a dramatic or a life-changing experience - nothing of that sort. Rather it was the more mundane act of filling in a form. Surprised? Let me explain.

Now, during my time here on earth, I have filled in many, many forms (as I'm sure you have, too), and I'm quite certain that there's still more to come. But, I don't remember much of anything about all the forms that I have ever filled - except this one a long time ago.

You see, what was so special about this form was that it was about the only form you'd ever find where it asked you this for this piece of information: your ambition. All the other forms had the usual details: name, address, occupation, and yadda, yadda, yadda, but I've never come across another form ever where it asked you what you'd like to be when you finish your education. And of course, as is normal with guys (at least those whom I know), I put soldier, police, fireman, Then, I think it was the second year when they gave the same forms, just to update the schools records, and I wrote the same things, just that I remember this time that I even put in musician!

And what was the outcome? I'm nowhere near any of those supposed ambitions, except maybe the musician as I play in the church music group. How differently I have turned out from what I pictured myself to be all those years ago. Such were the days of innocence.

I wonder what I'll write in now, if a similar form appeared and asked me of my ambitions. Hmmm...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Not just your common flu

What started out as a problem that was considered only "foreign" a few weeks ago has now progressed to become quite local; so local in fact that over a thousand people have been affected by it all at the same time. If you have been following the news, you should already have guessed what I'm talking about by now. It's about Influenza A, or more popularly known as the swine flu caused by the H1NI virus.

I guess it was only a matter of time before a resident of this country contracted the disease, and so start a local transmission of the disease. Even a country like Australia which, if I remember correctly, was spared the avian flu epidemic a few years back, and is quite isolated from the rest of the world due to its geographic location, is not spared this time. In fact, Victoria, one of it's biggest and most populous states, has earned the distinction of becoming the H1N1 centre of the world due to the rapid transmission of the disease there.

And now with a whole school closing with several others to be possibly closed, I wonder how far this virulent disease will spread in this country before effective containment is achieved. I'm sure it's not going to be easy. I was just chatting with my colleagues today, and one of them talked about her experience of going to one of the health clinics here. There was a large white tent at the clinic which was set up for operations dealing specifically with Influenza A. What a medical staff told my colleague was if they detected that you had the symptoms then you would instantly be held there and be whisked away to the quarantine centre here. You cannot go anywhere else. All you had were the clothes on your back. You didn't go anywhere till you had been cleared of the disease.

Now, that is bothersome. So, it's understandable when some people do not wish to report if they had come into contact with suspected cases recently. I'm not saying it's right and that it should be done that way; I'm just saying that I understand why some people do it, or in this case, don't do it. But, as far as Sabah is concerned, people are still generally undisturbed by the issue. The popular eating places are still pretty much crowded, and so too are the shopping malls on weekends. I just hope this is not a show of apathy on the part of the people here.

Be safe.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Between the shoe and the sandal

I wonder who was the first person who ever wore a pair of shoes; and who invented them? I've searched the net and no ones seems to know. But, they are certainly a beguiling item. Imelda Marcos, the wife of the late Phillipines premiere Ferdinand Marcos, reportedly had over a thousand pairs of them. Most celebrities I'm sure have hundreds of them. Even I, myself, not exactly a shoe fanatic, have more than a pair of shoes. I have my work shoes, my sports shoes, my wear-once-a-week shoes, my...

And the fashions that shoes come in nowadays are just limitless! I mean just go to a shopping mall and you'd see several shoes stores. And in every shoe store there are at least a hundred different designs. And I'd say that that's just a conservative estimate! I remember a time some years back where platforms were all the rage. Now, those Converse All-Stars or their copies are quite the in thing. Or have they ever gone out of fashion?

I tend to buy shoes based on three criteria: the look, the comfort, and of course, the price. I'd say all three are of equal importance though I suspect some people may think that as long as a pair of shoes looks really good, then that's the only thing that matters. But, I say why kill your feet (and yourself) just for the sake of looking good, right?

Which is why a proper fit is important. I think one of the most comfortable pair of shoes I've ever worn was a pair of Hi Tec walking boots I bought many years back. They just fit my feet so snugly, and they're a real pleasure to go around in. The cushion in these shoes are incredible. I still have them with me, but they're in really bad shape now. The soles are coming off though I suppose I could just bring it to the cobbler to have it stitched.

But, now I'm thinking whether there is a need for another pair of shoes. My sister-in-law is getting married in August, and it's going to be by the beach. So, what's the best bet? Shoes or sandals? Is there even such a thing as wedding shoes for men? What if it rains? Do I get boots instead?

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

But no harm doing a little reading up before buying, is there?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Has it really been two weeks? Boy. I guess the school break really was a break from any sort of brain work!

But, now that school's started again, I will have to dust off all the cobwebs that have appeared inside my head and get those juices flowing again...which is not a hard thing to do after what happened at work today.

Just before the holidays we had our mid-year examination as is the norm for many schools, and the two-week break was supposed to be time for us teachers to finish marking our student's scripts. I had already marked several classes that had their exams earlier, but for the later I said, my school-side of the brain took leave as well during the break so none of the papers were marked and I used whatever free time I had at school yesterday and today to finish off.

And I discovered a curious thing about one of my classes. I was marking their objective paper, and everyone of them except one, scored more half right. I would have been overjoyed, except that this particular class was one of the weakest, and their scores suggested that they were better than the best class in the same form which I also taught!

I was gobsmacked!

Could a miracle have happened? Could it be that my students in this particular class were suddenly proficient in English? Then I marked their essay paper and reality came crashing down - none of them could answer the paper properly.

Which begs the question - how was it that they were able to obtain such high marks for the objective paper? I know that teachers are supposed to think good of their students, but the first thought that came to mind was that they had somehow gotten hold of the question paper along with the answer prior to the test and distributed them during the examination. I couldn't think of any other scenario.

So, when I went into their class today, I confronted them asking if any of them had copied. None owned up. So, I decided to do a simple test. I took an clean question paper, and asked them to give me the answers orally . My reasoning was if they really understood the questions then they'd be able to give the correct answer - as was in their answer sheet. After all, it was the same question paper.

But, none were able to give correct answers for all. Out of the 7 questions I asked (seven consecutive questions where more than half the class got all correct), the most they could give me were two or three correct answers. So, what's a teacher like me to do?

I reprimanded them for cheating in the exam and said that I'll deduct marks from their score. That was the end of that.

Or so I thought. The plot thickens! :)

Back in the staffroom, I was talking to a colleague of mine when another colleague approached me and asked me if I had accused a class for cheating. I said yes. And she then proceeded to tell me that they hadn't actually cheated but that she had translated the questions and answers for them so that they could understand.


I was gobsmacked again. I blinked at her, not knowing what to say or do.

Finding my voice, I asked her what I was to do with the marks. She didn't know. All she could say was that she was sorry. I told her then that I would stick to my decision of deducting the marks. She offered her apologies again and left.

My head was turning then. Not in a million years would I have thought of a teacher going to such lengths in helping a student during a school exam.

Well, now I know better.

p.s. But that still doesn't explain how all the students answers are all similar. Surely, they don't share the same brain as well, right?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Ka'amatan: The spirit of merry-making

This is going to be a long post, so I suggest you set aside more than your usual time in reading my usually bite-sized postings! :)

Every year, Kaamatan, or Harvest Festival, is celebrated by the Kadazandusuns of Sabah, Borneo on May 30 and 31. A similar celebration is also observed in the neigbouring state of Sarawak, called the Gawai Festival, but that is celebrated on 31 May and 1 June instead. For brevity's sake, here is the extremely condensed version of the story behind this celebration of the rice harvest:

According to Kadazandusun folklore, this event is celebrated in thanksgiving to Kinoingan, the god who created the Kadazandusun and the world, for a year's bountiful rice harvest and also for blessings for a better harvest the following year. It is also in remembrance of Huminodun, the only daughter of Kinoingan, who was sacrificed to become the first seedlings of rice so that people may plant them and have food to eat.

If you want to read a more detailed background concerning much of what the whole Kaamatan festival is all about, you can go here.

The Kaamatan Festival is perhaps the most famous among all the tribal celebrations here in Sabah. It usually starts at the kampung (village) level, then it goes on to the district level, and finally it climaxes with the state-level celebrations on the two last days of May. If you visited the Kadazandusun Cultural Association building here in Penampang, be prepared to be a witness to lots of fascinating events: there will be the stilt-walking race, tug of war, arm wrestling, finger wrestling (!), and catapult shooting competition. Those are just some of the competitions held in the quest to see which district in Sabah is tops. Those are in addition to the many cultural performances like dancing, singing, gong-beating. You'll also get to savour some traditional food and drink. The climax of the whole celebration is the crowning of the lass who wins the Unduk Ngadau (beauty contest).

But, be prepared as well to face throngs upon throngs of people. But it's well worth it if you've not experienced it before.

But, there is perhaps a darker side to this whole cheerful celebration. You see, a rather indispensable element for this whole merry-making activity is the drinking of spirits. As mentioned above, rice is the whole reason for the celebrations, and so the traditional brew tapai, or rice wine, is common company as far as Kaamatan is concerned. You'll often see people drinking tapai with long straws from earthen jars where they've been left to brew for months. And since such merriment often starts from day and continues on till late, what you get is a whole lot of drunken people. Such people are fine on their own, but the danger arises when they go to the roads, whether as drivers or pedestrians. They pose a danger not only to themselves but other road users as well.

You've probably read about Tong Ju, that Chinese national, who had dreams of trekking through 193 countries recently in the national papers. He was killed three days ago, and police have classified his cause of death as a hit-and-run incident. His body was found by the road side along one of the village roads in Penampang. The police have appealed to witnesses or the driver of the vehicle to come forward. If and when that happens, I would not be surprised if alcohol was part of the cause.

I remember driving at night in a residential area and I came to a part of the road where it was somewhat darker because the street lights were not working. I wasn't driving very fast and it was a fortunate thing as well because I suddenly saw a black heap in the middle of the road right in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and I stopped just in time. I was wondering what the heap was when it rose and started walking wobbly, oblivious to my car which was less than 5 metres away! That guy was drunk to the core, and to make it worse, he was wearing all black! Just imagine what would have happened if I hadn't even seen him lying on the road and just ran him over...

I like these kinds of celebrations for they are a wonderful testament to the uniqueness and diversity of the people of Sabah. The only thing that puts me off are the people who seem to lose all measure of self-control when drinking, and so put other people at risk.

When you drink, stay off the roads, please!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

I couldn't help but notice this the moment I picked up today's edition of The Borneo Post. Here's the front-page headline that greeted me in big bold letters when I read the local paper today:

Watch your tongue, hubby: Telling your wife she is not pretty will be an offence

That sure catches your attention doesn't it, especially if you're male and you're married (and I suppose, even if you're female or you're not married!). My first reaction on reading that headline, of course, was: Huh? What's this all about?

Here's the opening explanation:

"A husband telling his wife that she is no longer pretty in an attempt to humiliate her can be classified as an emotional violence offence if ammendments are made to the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) 1994.

That made things slightly clearer but even as I read the rest of the news article, I couldn't help but think of how such an inclusion in the law can be misused and go against the very spirit on why the powers that be deemed it necessary. But, I suppose that would also be true of other laws in the country if you're cunning and resourceful enough. According to the article, the whole idea for the expansion of the definition of domestic violence is to include not only physical abuse, which is visible and therefore easily identifiable, but also emotional, mental and psychological forms - the kinds that are often not as visible and therefore, not as easy to identify.

What drives a person to despair? What triggers someone to hurt another person? What causes people to take their own lives? I think it's the unseen things, the inner workings of the mind that pushes people to do things that they would not normally do. And such people need all the help and support they can get, especially if such mental, emotional and psychological torture is not of their own doing as in the case of domestic violence.

So, I applaud the efforts of the government for looking into increasing the protection of married women against violence at home. I just hope that there will be clear markers within the amendment that will enable it to function effectively.

Love your family, peeps.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Poetic amusement

Tonight's the night
The Red Devils play the Blue and Red,
And while no one quite knows
the kind of scoreline the game will show,
One thing's for sure
my dear footie fan:
That many a person, I assure
Will hurl abuse at that poor referee man

Come tomorrow
many will be bleary eyed,
'Cos fans in the world this side
will be dog-tired and mystified,
For how in the world
Could their team so strong
Be so humbled
by a side not quite on song
 (so they grumble)

So, be wary
my dear footie fan
the wrath of the win-deprived-sleep-deprived
brand of a man
for quick is his temper
and sure is his hand
to point a finger at you
and say, "Just shut up. Can?"

Enjoy the great football game that I'm sure it's going to be between Barcelona and Manchester United tonight. It's not often that you see two champions of the respective domestic leagues slugging it out on the same field for the greater glory that is the UEFA Champions League crown. Just in case you don't know, the match starts at 2.45 am local Malaysian time.

For me, I'll be dozing in my comfortable bed then.

You can tell me the results tomorrow...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Facebook musings

Not too long ago, keeping track of your friends from your primary school and secondary school days was next to impossible. I mean how do you even begin to search out for that long-never-seen friend of yours if you don't even have an inkling where in the world that person is right now?

But, times have changed...oh, boy how times have changed.

The social-networking website phenomenon that is Facebook is radically changing the way we connect to people. Long-lost friends suddenly appear out of nowhere, and before you even realise it, a friend you know is a friend of a friend of a friend. Then you begin to realise how small this world actually is. Sure, great distances may separate physically separate you and your long lost buddies, but in cyberspace, that's nothing. Your friends are only a poke away!

I'm no Facebook nut, but I find it a usefool tool for looking for people whom I've lost contact with, and vice versa. Through it I've come into contact with people whom I've not met for over 20 years! People who I thought I'd never ever meet ever again; people who I've basically stored in the "Perry's Past Friends Box".

Like I said in my previous post, technology never ceases to amaze me.

Yet, despite all its wonderful bells and whistles, technology is only as great as the people who created it. And there lies the problem. People are flawed, and so technology can only be that way as well - flawed.

How else do you explain the reason for the mighty Facebook to lump people from all parts of Wales under England? Facebook says it was due to a 'bug', which is a pretty convenient way of saying that it was a technical glitch, and error in the programming code, in short, it's all the computer's fault.

But, I suspect the 'bug' was faulty human beings in the first place.

You can read the whole story about this 'error' and people's reaction to it at the BBC website here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What's in a name

This is one has been sitting on the boiler for some time but I thought this is a good time as any to talk about it.

I'm not sure what it is about Sabah and building naming, but there seems to be a tremendous dearth of creativity among the developers here. Originality is something I find sorely lacking here.

Take for example this building called the KK Times Square. You'll find a building with a similar name in Kuala Lumpur, the Berjaya Times Square. We will also have a Megamall here (though it's still in progress), just like the more illustrious one in KL as well. And Putrajaya? Well, we have a Putera Jaya here. We even have a Bandar Utama (of course, that's in Sandakan...but still)!

But, the lack of creativity doesn't just stop at names of places. It extends to road names as well. Take for example this hilarious excuse for a road name - Muntahan ('vomit' in English). Well, a road with a name like that is rather sad, but imagine having a few of them (Muntahan 1, Muntahan 2, Muntahan 3, etc.). Sounds like a really bad series of sequels to an equally terrible horror flick.

And the un-originality (is there even such a word?) of the road naming doesn't end there. There's a district in Sabah called Penampang, and one of it's major towns is called Donggongon. And guess what the name of the road that runs through this town is called? The 'Road in front of Donggongon Town'. Exact words, no kidding! And we also have the 'Access Road to Family Planning Centre', which leads you to (yep, you guessed it!) the Family Planning Centre.

With all these howlers for road names, I hope someone high up in the Public Works Department will elect somebody with at least a minute spark of creativity to helm the road naming committee, so that we'd get at least more 'normal' names.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Just chillin' tunes

You've heard of youtube, right? It's that ever popular website where people from just about every corner of the globe share videos of either themselves or other people or of some other interesting bits. So, I was browsing youtube yesterday, and you know the home page where it shows you what people are watching at the moment, right? I saw this thumbnail of this person called Zee Avi (she goes under the handle KokoKaina), and it seemed to have been viewed quite a number of times. So, out of curiosity, I clicked and what greeted me was this sweet-looking girl playing her guitar. Nothing extraordinary right? I mean, you'll get lots of sweet-looking girls toting their guitars on youtube.

But, once she started playing and singing - I was fascinated. Her playing style is extremely simple and her music is very laidback. It's the kind of music that you can just listen to on a lazy afternoon, doing absolutely nothing but getting comfortable on your favourite piece of furniture. But, that's not all. Her voice is quite good. Hers is not like those Mariah Carey-esque strong, high vocals, but those quiet, peaceful, come-listen-to-me kind. Almost like Norah Jones.

In one of her videos, she tells how she started posting videos on youtube since 2007 and then one day, she was highlighted on youtube's front page, and was discovered by a recording studio in LA. And so, she's just recorded her first album and it has just been released in the US. I read that it's available at the ITune's store as well.

But, the most interesting bit is another thing I learned about her. She's Malaysian, born in Miri, Sarawak.

So, if you're looking for some relaxing music to listen to, in exchange for all the guitar-crunching, drum-beating that you listen to daily on your music player, try listening to Zee Avi on youtube and see if you agree with me whether she's one talented girl.


The wonders of technology.

It just keeps reminding me every now and again how amazing are the myriad of technological stuff we surround ourselves with every day. Take for example the hand phone. I remember the time in the not too distant past when hand phones were still not very common, and about the only common variety was the one where you had to carry a box-like base which served as both the battery and the transmitter. My dad had one and on more than a few occasions I had the "privilege" to carry it, and boy, compared to the mobile phones we get today, those things weighed as much as a tank!

The tank

Then, came that tank of a phone evolutionised. It shrunk. Still a whole lot chunkier, and boxier than the phones of today, these phones were never less much much more lighter and mobile. I used to call them the "water-bottle" mobile phones. I don't remember now what gave me the idea to give them that name, but that's how I knew them. My dad had one, and I think the only manufacturer of such devices was Motorola. By all means, these things were tough and solid. I think even if a car went over them, they'd still be intact!

Do you still remember one of these? It was all the rage then!

But, nowadays, mobile phones are all about sleekness, rounded edges, simplicity in design, and killer functionality. No more is a hand phone just a means for communicating. I think we've passed that threshold a long time ago. Now, your average phone is a picture taking-music playing-life organising-alarm ringing-movie playing-digital file storing-web surfing-message sending-game playing little piece of wonder. And that's just your mid-range phone. The high-end ones, I'm told, are even more spectacular.

But I like having devices that are meant for what they do best. Having all the other extras a cool. And sometimes I get a bit green with envy when I look at all the cool phones that my friends (and even my students!) have. But I figure, I wouldn't use all those extra functionality very often, and so it wouldn't justify the extra cost in getting such phones. So I'm pretty contented with the one I have currently - a sub RM100 phone. It does what it's supposed to do pretty decently - to call and send sms-es.