How should we judge a government?

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." - Malcolm X

In Malaysia, if you don't watch television or read newspapers, you are uninformed; but if you do, you are misinformed!

"Our government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. " - Ronald Reagan
Was he referring to Malaysia? Seems so apt...

Government fed by the people

Government fed by the people

Career options

Career options

How the Chinese control the economy

How the Chinese control the economy

MyCen News

Saturday, December 17, 2005

So near yet so far

On Wednesday night, my daughter and I came back from Ipoh and saw a familiar figure at the Indian temple’s multi-purpose hall. She thought he is her ex-classmate’s father. I went to ask him, “Excuse me, are you with the CID?” He nodded his head. I continued, “Do you know Yamini?” He smiled and nodded his head again and said, “She is my daughter!”

I quickly waved and gestured to my daughter to come over. After the usual introduction and exchange of pleasantries, we got down to asking where is so and so. The good thing about being in a small town is that, everybody we asked about, he or his wife knew where they are or what course they are taking and so on.

A surprise was that another good friend of my daughter, Tenmala, who had lost contact with her since they left school, is a roommate of Yam in Ukraine. One of their school teachers, Mr. Toh, has a daughter also studying medicine in the same university. Since the recent announcement of non-recognition of its medical degree by the government, it is unlikely that any more Malaysian student will be enrolling at the University of Crimea. Such a pity.

Coming back to my topic. From the information we gathered from the couple, the biggest surprise was that an ex-classmate, Bhuvan, who got married just 2 days ago, had actually hosted the wedding dinner at the same hall! My daughter and I actually got back from KL on Monday, around 7.30pm and noticed many cars parked outside the hall, along the lane leading to our house. How could she have guessed that her ex-classmate was actually all dressed up in her bridal gown in the hall? Similarly, how could Bhuvan have guessed that her ex-classmate had just got back from UK and was hardly 30 ft away?

I used to joke that each time the temple hall is being used to host a wedding dinner, we should be invited as a matter of course! Now, it is more like, we should look and check out who is getting married in case we miss something so unexpected.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Fun with figures

1456 seems normal enough to one of my relatives, until one day, he overheard someone commented that it sounds like “yat sai ng lou” in Cantonese, which translates into “whole life do not want to do business”. The next thing he did was he sold the car!

Recently, in Johore, the successful tender for the registration number “JJJ 1” was over Rm150,000! It seems the record was much higher for a Selangor plate “BBB 8888” many years ago.

To others not into numerology, these people who tendered exceptionally high prices for just some car numbers must be crazy. Personally, I would have more respect for those who are more willing to donate to deserving charities. Even with charitable organizations, there are problems of people taking advantage of the donations. So we have to be careful when donating too.

I used to own a car with registration numbers 967 and I have seen people laughing over it. If car numbers are potent forces, then would girls feel more secure going into a new friend’s car with registration “5967”?

I think it is more to do with the mind more than anything else. If we are aware of certain things and if we can help it, we would rather avoid anything that sounds bad and go for anything that sounds good.

I have seen a friend’s husband who chose all the nice numbers, like No.9 for his house, 8668 and later 6363 for his cars, and other nice numbers for their telephone numbers. Yet he is on the run from loan sharks and she had to register as a single mum to be eligible for state help.

There is also a commercial reason for choosing propitious numbers. Even though we do not care about what sounds good or bad, when it comes to selling our house or car, it matters!

If Chinese, in general, do not like numbers “4” or “44” and so on, on our house or car, then we are in effect, limiting our market to those who do not mind. In some cases, that could well be the deciding factor to buy the house or car! Similarly, with numbers “8” or “88” and so on, the seller has the advantage over another person without such numbers.

Fortunately, most town or city councils are sympathetic to house-owners who wish to change their house numbers. For example, number “4” can be changed to “2A”.

The police have been complaining about traffic jams whenever there are car accidents. It seems most cars slowed down to see what was happening. Some actually wanted to see the car registration numbers so that they can buy “Empat Ekor”. To overcome this type of traffic congestion, the Penang bridge had a high divider made!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hello! Goodbye! Hello! Hello!

These days travel by air is like taking a bus in yesteryears.

On Sunday, Joe left for UK. On Monday, my daughter came back from UK. On Tuesday, Joe came back from UK because he was not allowed to re-enter.

It was like before I could finish the song Jambalaya, "Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me-yo my-yo..." and he was back! I told him it was because he didn't say goodbye to me and he replied that was why he didn't as he was going half-heartedly.

The good news (at least to me) is that we can have more jamming sessions. Anyway, he is likely to be performing in pubs.

My other daughter will be back in a few days time. Then some guests to her cousin's wedding will be arriving from UK too. So KLIA will be visited very often.

Though I have been to KLIA a few times,but far between each time, I got into trouble on Monday. I missed carpark B and C and went into D which is for season card holders only. All 3 lanes were for them. There was no attendant around and I was helpless for about 10 minutes. To reverse out could have been dangerous as most cars came in very fast. Luckily, I found a sign "Public only" but only at the second attempt did I found a small sliproad that leads to Block C! What a relief for me.

The difference between now and then, in terms of sending and receiving travellers, is that, for instance, I was the only one to receive my daughter. During my time, my first trip overseas saw some twenty family members sending me off! The same with meeting me on my arrival.

I shall be relating how I miss the old-fashioned relationships in another post.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What is your favourite song?

I am sure many people will take a while before they can come up with a definite answer.

Personally, I have problem deciding which one, as it depends very much on my mood at any particular time.

The other day I bought a CD of oldies called Sweet Memories 3.

First song, Over the rainbow by Judy Garland really brought back memories of when I was a kid. Nothing like the original singer and music accompaniment to evoke the memories.

Next, Evergreen tree by Cliff Richard brought back memories of my teenage years learning 3-chord songs.

When I fall in love by Nat King Cole is another classic which I can never get fed up of. Portrait of my love by Matt Monro reminds me of the time when I tried to sing like him! Honey by Bobby Goldsboro is a sad one which really touches my heart.
California dreaming by The Mamas & The Papas is a typical song of flower people era of the 60s.What a wonderful world by Louis Armstrong in his unique voice which many have tried to imitate.

It is a pity songs like My way (Karaoke anthem) and Smoke gets in your eyes got over-exposed by some wannabees.

Catchy songs like Jambalaya (I like the version by Gerry and the Pacemakers) and Red River Valley by Marty Robbin are songs that I would not request but would enjoy whenever it is played.

The power of songs or tunes in bringing back memories is very strong indeed. A friend described it very aptly that when he listens to Los Indios, he could almost smell the fragrance of perfume because it reminded him of dancing (or lumsing to the Cantonese) to those tunes at parties, some 30 years ago!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Philosopher or fool?

In ancient Greece (469 - 399 BC), Socrates was widely known for his wisdom.

One day, an acquaintance ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?"

"Wait a moment," Socrates replied. "Before you tell me, I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test."

"Triple filter?" asked the acquaintance.

"That's right," Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my student, let's take a moment to filter what you're going to say. The first filter is TRUTH. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "actually I just heard about it."

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of GOODNESS. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?"

"No, on the contrary..."

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him, even though you're uncertain it's true?"

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued. "You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter – the filter of USEFULNESS. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really..."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is not TRUE nor GOOD nor even USEFUL, why tell it to me at all?"

The man felt ashamed.

This is why Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

It also explains why he never found out that Plato was sleeping with his wife!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The end justifies the means

Once there was an old book-keeper in an accounts department. He is well respected for his well kept and balanced accounts. Any accounts staff who was not sure which account to post a certain entry would ask for his help.

Somehow, the rest of the staff realized that whenever a question had to do with whether to debit or credit, he would open one of his drawers and looked in.

Unable to control their curiosity, one of them peeked into his drawer when he went to the washroom. He found an old piece of paper written: Debit: where the door is. Credit: where the window is.

In spite of his years of experience, the book-keeper had problem remembering which side was debit or credit.

It may seem hard to believe but it is true that some people have problems over remembering basic left or right.

We knew a man from Hong Kong who had a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering. He failed the UK driving tests a few times mainly because he took the wrong turn when the examiner gave instruction to turn!

Some musicians learned the music notes the old-fashioned way. Old-timers will know the OK songbooks using 123 to signify do-re-mi.

Recently, I have seen a man in his fifties playing bass. He was Chinese educated and plays mainly Chinese songs. But his familiarity with the scales on the frets of the guitar was impressive. He has reached a stage where so long as he knows the tune, he can play the bass that goes with it, not necessarily by the book.

In other words, we can learn anything by any method that suits us. He might not be suitable for an orchestra but he impresses whenever he performs in a band playing popular tunes. In fact he could easily adapt and play popular tunes for an orchestra so long as the conductor is not particular, which happens sometimes and can be entertaining as one-off event.

I can still remember how one band member mentioned “Words” by the Bee Gees and after hearing a few notes, he said, “Oh! Smile” because he remembered the lyrics start with “Smile…”

For jamming purposes, it is better to have someone who can adapt than another with music credentials but unwilling to play any other way but according to song pieces.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I can see clearly now

After a few gaffes, I have decided that it is best not to tell anyone directly who he or she looks like.

Women, especially, are generally vain and like to think of themselves as prettier than what others would normally think of them.

Once, I mentioned to a lady that she looks like a teacher we know. “Do I look like her?” she said, visibly disappointed. Later, I realized she meant, “surely I look prettier than her!”

It is even worse, for example, to say someone looks like his or her daddy or mummy, when in fact, he or she was adopted!

With DNA tests these days, some dark secrets are bound to come out sooner or later. Some people have dominant genes and their features are likely to be carried by their offsprings. For such cases, even without tests, people would be talking behind their back. That is, if they have any dark secrets!

Midwife asked young woman in maternity ward if she would like her husband to be present at the birth.

" I'm afraid I don't have a husband" she replies.

"O.K. Do you have a boyfriend?" asks the Midwife.

"No, no boyfriend either."

"Do you have a partner then?"

"No, I'm not attached, I'll be having my baby on my own."

After the birth the midwife again speaks to the young woman,
"You have a healthy bouncing baby girl, but I must warn you before you see her that the baby is black."

"Well," replies the girl, "I was very down on my luck, with no money and nowhere to live, and so I accepted a job in a porn film. The lead man was black."

"Oh, I'm very sorry," says the midwife, "that's really none of my business and I'm sorry that I have to ask you these awkward questions but I must also tell you that the baby has blonde hair."

"Well yes," the girl again replies, "you see the co-star in the movie was this Swedish guy."

"Oh, I'm sorry," the midwife repeats, "that's really none of my business either and I hate to pry further but your baby also has slanted eyes."

"Yes," continues the girl, "there was a little Chinese man also in the movie, I really had no choice."

At this, the midwife again apologizes, collects the baby and present her to the girl, and immediately proceeds to give the baby a slap on the butt.

The baby starts crying and the mother exclaims, "Thank god for that!"

"What do you mean?" says the midwife, shocked.

"Well," says the girl extremely relieved, "I had this horrible feeling that she was going to bark!”

Thursday, December 08, 2005

So far yet so near

We have been used to the telephone, and lately, the invaluable mobile phone, which enable us to contact someone almost anywhere in the world.

The internet, via the telecommunication system, has shown the power of web publishers and writers in influencing public opinions, much to the annoyance of dictatorial regimes.

Anyway, this blog is not into serious stuff, so I will stay away from heavy material.

Phew! What an introduction for what I actually want to write about!

Though there is so-called freedom of expression, especially in one’s own blog, is there real freedom to write? I would say, “NO!”

I have to exercise some caution and try to think ahead as to who else will be reading my blog. At the moment, it is still in its infancy. It is read by my children and a few friends.

But being a small world, and the ease of forwarding emails, one can never tell who could be reading it. My children have already shown my blog to their friends. Joe forwarded one of my earlier postings to Yap and now we are in contact and will most probably meet in KL or Ipoh.

I go for breakfast with two retirees on a daily basis, except Sunday or when one of us could not make it. One of them has a son who is an executive and shareholder of Google. Can I write anything about him without running the danger of his son reading about it? It is a very, very remote chance, but still possible.

It depends on what they have in place, if any, monitoring new postings in their blogsites. The mere mention of Google may actually activate someone somewhere in charge of it. Then the person might casually remark to his colleagues who are Malaysians, “Hey, look what I’ve got here!”

Of course, they are not small in number nor in a small office. They are so huge now that they are in the league of Microsoft in terms of market capitalization.

So my imaginary conversation, if triggered, could well take place between San Francisco and Seattle, via video conferencing!

Will let you know if anything happens at all. It also need someone who would make an effort to comment. A friend just sms-ed me, "Visited ur blog. Read ur stories, any more?" My reaction: "Samy, yanah?"

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Destiny's child

One day, while discussing with his friends on opportunities in UK, my son checked out British High Commission and/or British Council website.

Apparently, being born in UK, he has the “right of abode” in UK. All he needs to do is bring along his British birth certificate and Malaysian passport to British High Commission and his passport will be stamped, indicating his right to entry into UK and stay and work, without requiring work permit. His friends were really envious and surprised that he did not think of it earlier. They commented that people “jumped plane”, paid dubious agents or got testimonials from local restaurants, just to get into UK to work.

Back in 1999, we told him to study in UK for his “A” levels and degree, because we believed he is entitled to certain benefits like lower education fees and so on. But peer pressure got the better of him, and he studied in Sydney instead.

With this option, he is looking forward to trying out in UK and if possible, study for an MBA.

Maybe, like me, his future wife is waiting in UK for just this move. This is my prediction anyway.

Looks like for a short period, all our three children will be in UK and if we pay them a visit then, our whole family too! A family re-union, where it all began. Pleasant thought indeed.

Now back to reality: where is that other pillow? I need it to prop up my head to dream on.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Manglish and communication gap

“Double-storey bungalow”, “Three-storey bungalow” or even “Semi-detached bungalow”, are common descriptions which we can find daily in newspaper advertisements.

I found out the correct meaning of “bungalow” one evening, after dinner in an English friend’s house in Leeds. I took a book on building which was lying nearby and read a few lines. I asked him, a Chartered Surveyor, “Why is the cost of building a bungalow lower than a double-storey terrace house?” He replied, “Of course, a bungalow is only one-storey!”

Imagine the following conversation between an Englishman and a local builder:-

Malcolm: Chu Kang, I want to build a bungalow on my piece of land in Sungei Buloh. Could you give me a quotation please?

Chu Kang: How many storeys you want? I can build one, two or three storey bungalows!


The word “supersede” has been so frequently spelled incorrectly as “supercede” that I am sure many people were swayed into thinking the latter spelling is correct. Even newspaper editors sometimes failed to notice the error, let alone the reading public.

Once I asked an English colleague, who was a graduate trainee, how he would spell “supersede” and he spelt it with a “c”. When I pointed out to him the word in a dictionary, he said, “Honestly, I didn’t think it was incorrect and wouldn’t even bother to look up the dictionary!”


In conversational English, we often come across someone who would ask, “Do you mind if I smoke?”

Many Malaysians are likely to answer, “Yes.” As in “Yes (go ahead)” very obligingly as is common with our hospitality towards guests or foreigners.

The Englishman is likely to be startled and say, “You mean to say, you actually mind that I smoke?”


In Malaysia, I have come across a few people actually claiming that they speak fluent English. Yet, upon listening carefully, their sentences consist of a mixture of English, Malay and Cantonese or Hokien! Surely, any English-speaking foreigner, including Chinese from Hong Kong, cannot understand fully.

Malaysian: “This lighter yoursah? Myswan cannot work onelah. Can borrow yourswanah?”
English: "Is this your lighter? Mine doesn't work. Mind if I borrow yours?"
Malaysian: “I stay in a kampong datswhy I don’t like city one.” “My son very pandai one you know?”
English: "I live in a village and I dislike city life. My son is a bright one. Do you know?"

The following sentences sound correct, but not grammatically:-

“You can go to KL, isn’t it?” "You can go to KL, can't you?"
“You are 22 years old, isn’t it?” "You are 22 years old, aren't you?"
“All of us are going, isn’t it?” "All of us are going, aren't we?"

I can safely say nobody can claim to know perfect English. In fact, there is no perfect English, it being a living language and each year, there are new words being coined as well as foreign words being added on.

But in Malaysia, the level of English has dropped so much that even some university graduates cannot converse in English.

A former classmate, who speaks so-called “fluent English”, lamented that his English is better than his son! Fortunately, his son is currently studying in Australia and hopefully, he will be back speaking a much improved English to challenge his dad!

We must bear in mind that some native English can speak the language but are practically illiterate, just like some Malaysians in the south, speaking Mandarin like a dialect, but not necessarily able to read or write it. It is also easier to read than be able to write, as the former involves recognizing and not necessarily understanding, while the latter involves the ability to make sentences to describe and so on.

In case there are any English teachers reading this posting, I am like a “sek siew siew, parn toi pew” or translated as “know a little, pretending to be a representative”. After all, to quote William Hung, “I have no professional training!”

Monday, December 05, 2005

Upclose with HK stars

On Saturday, my son was promoting his boss's company products in Ipoh Parade. An associate company, involved in entertainment, brought in 4 HK stars: Myolie Wu, Raymond Lum Foong, Sonija Kwok and Ron Ng, which coincided with the event. In fact, it should be the other way round!

The fans were trying to get close to the stars and he had to act as security personnel to help hold them back.

On Sunday, there was a show at the Esplanade in Penang. After his work was done, he had a chance to join his boss and family at the VIP section. Later, he joined them for dinner. But since he has gone past the stage of trying to take pictures of the stars as well as with the stars, he finds the antics of the fans strange. Like following the vehicles in their bikes and waving, waiting for long just to get a glimpse of them or to take pictures of them and so on.

Sometimes an opportunity presents itself but one missed it.

Few years ago, we happened to be at a shopping mall in Penang. The then not well known Back Street Boys were there. My youngest, daughter, was then too young to appreciate them. Later, she became a fan and insisted on buying only their genuine CDs! I kept reminding her of her missed opportunity!

Will my son regret not having a picture taken with the HK stars later?

Gem from corporate lessons revisited

A priest offered a lift to a nun. She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg. The priest nearly had an accident.

After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg. The nun said, "Father, remember Psalm 129?"

The priest removed his hand. But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again. The nun once again said, "Father, remember Psalm 129?"

The priest apologized, "Sorry sister but the flesh is weak."

Arriving at the convent, the nun went on her way.

On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129.

It said, "Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory."

Moral of the story: If you are not well informed in your job, you might miss a great opportunity.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Building walls instead of bridges

It seems common to have problems with our immediate neighbours. Sad but true.

Our problem started when our neighbour’s daughter threw a piece of wrapper into our compound as seen by my wife. She told her to bring a plastic bag and collect all the rubbish which they have thrown over – wrappers, empty plastic bottles, beer bottle crown corks, and even clumps of long human hair which one of them conveniently dropped them instead of taking the trouble to dispose of it properly.

Anyway, since then we never talk to each other. Perceived loss of face I suppose, when the parents knew about it. When we built the fence-wall at the time we built the house, it was on our side of the property, not really a common wall. So it is really annoying when they continue to hang dripping car mats and carpets over the wall to dry, causing paint to become mouldy in no time.

Recently, one of my regular breakfast companions had a window pane broken by his neighbour’s grasscutter while I was waiting with him for another friend. We found the missile that caused it was an old piece of metal the size of a cheap blade, the type that can be folded in. It is anyone’s guess what could have happened if it hit one of us instead. I estimated it travelled some 30 ft. and broke the glass. Anyway, he complained to the grasscutter while the owner remained seated on his garden chair, back facing him, ignoring his comments, while
smoking.

That was a couple of months ago. Last week, the grasscutter came and used the same type of motorized cutter. It created a mess in my friend’s compound as a result of the flying cut grass and soil. The last straw was when his wife commented that some soil or dirt actually went into their room. He complained to his neighbour about it.

Neighbour said, “You are always complaining.”

He retorted, “I have tolerated all this for the past 30 years, and you said I am always complaining.”

Neighbour: “I’m going to put up a wall to replace the chain-link fence.”

Today, I could see a pile of sand and some workers working on it. Pride can be expensive!

While Berlin Wall came down, we are putting up walls against our neighbours. Walls to avoid seeing each other.