How should we judge a government?
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
almost hitting the ceiling.
We are facing the inevitable price increases across the board as a result of record price increases in crude oil and other commodities because of the fast expanding economies of China and India.
We were advised by Najib not so long ago to change our lifestyle. His recent trumpeting in Paris at the launch of our new submarines seem to suggest it applies to us only. There are also his pet project in Brickendonbury and other 'brain-wash the students' events in UK which suggest our country has deep pockets when it comes to BN causes.
Pak Lah just said we have the money to send more astronauts. Soon after, we read about a school getting donations from the private sector because of urgent needs. Then, we found our policemen do not have enough bullet-proof vests.
Khairy told off PPP's Kayveas to walk before attempting to run when the latter asked for more seats or more correctly asked for what they were entitled to when the party joined BN. Coming from someone who aims to be PM before 40... who is more like running before he can crawl?
Japanese save a lot. They do not spend much. Also Japan exports far more than it imports. Has an annual trade surplus of over 100 billions. Yet Japanese economy is considered weak, even collapsing.
Americans spend, save little. Also US imports more than it exports. Has an annual trade deficit of over $400 billion. Yet, the American economy is considered strong and trusted to get stronger.
But where from do Americans get money to spend?
They borrow from Japan, China and even India. Virtually others save for the US to spend. Global savings are mostly invested in US, in dollars.
India itself keeps its foreign currency assets of over $50 billions in US securities. China has sunk over $160 billion in US securities. Japan's stakes in US securities is in trillions.
The US has taken over $5 trillion from the world. So, as the world saves for the US, Americans spend freely. Today, to keep the US consumption going, that is for the US economy to work, other countries have to remit $180 billion every quarter, which is $2 billion a day, to the US!
A Chinese economist asked a neat question. Who has invested more, US in China, or China in US? The US has invested in China less than half of what China has invested in US.
The same is the case with India. We have invested in US over $50 billion. But the US has invested less than $20 billion in India.
Why the world is after US?
The secret lies in the American spending, that they hardly save. In fact they use their credit cards to spend their future income. That the US spends is what makes it attractive to export to the US. So US imports more than what it exports year after year.
The world is dependent on US consumption for its growth. By its deepening culture of consumption, the US has habituated the world to feed on US consumption. But as the US needs money to finance its consumption, the world provides the money.
It's like a shopkeeper providing the money to a customer so that the customer keeps buying from the shop. If the customer will not buy, the shop won't have business, unless the shopkeeper funds him. The US is like the lucky customer. And the world is like the helpless shopkeeper financier.
Who is America's biggest shopkeeper financier? Japan of course. Yet it's Japan, which is regarded as weak. Modern economists complain that Japanese do not spend, so they do not grow. To force the Japanese to spend, the Japanese government exerted itself, reduced the savings rates, even charged the savers.
Even then the Japanese did not spend (habits don't change, even with taxes, do they?). Their traditional postal savings alone is over $1.2 trillions, about three times the Indian GDP. Thus, savings, far from being the strength of Japan, has become its pain.
Hence, what is the lesson?
That is, a nation cannot grow unless the people spend, not save. Not just spend, but borrow and spend.
Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati, the famous Indian-born economist in the US, told Manmohan Singh that Indians wastefully save. Ask them to spend, on imported cars and, seriously, even on cosmetics! This will put India on a growth curve. This is one of the reason for MNC's coming down to India, seeing the consumer spending.
'Saving is sin, and spending is virtue.'
But before you follow this neo economics, get some fools to save so that you can borrow from them and spend!!!
Sunday, October 28, 2007
The weather has been lovely, which in the Dutch context means less rain than usual. My only problem is the cold. It has been hovering around 5 degrees, so I have lugged out my bulky winter clothings already. I've even bought nice red gloves from H&M on reduced price to cope with cold-numbing fingers while cycling. This winter is going to be *ccccccold*, I reckon.
My time in Poland last week was really predictably, *nice*. =.)
Dominik showed me parts of Poznan - we visited the old market (Stary Rynek), the zoo (I wanted the autumn trees while Dominik wanted to see the insect exhibition), his university, and a nicely renovated old brewery that is now a upmarket shopping mall. We even managed to meet up with his friends from university for beer, and lapped up a meal at the local "bar mleczny" (or "milk bars"), a legacy of Polish communist days.
Coming back was tough, more so because of two sleep-deficient nights on the night train (I left on Monday night and came back on Thursday night). Anyway, I had a full week of econometrics waiting for me, which kept me busy. Without internet at home, I spent most of last week in school, survived mainly on cold meals and cup soups, and came home around midnight. It paid off because my presentation (part of the assessment for my econometric course) went well last Friday.
It has been nearly two months since I've started my programme and the verdict is, "so far so good", if not "better than expected". Our pictures are finally up in the school's official website(http://www.governance.unimaas.nl/home/staff/research_fellows.html) while meantime, us (first-years) joked to one another that they are procrastinating on putting them up until January when we will have our mock research proposal defence so that they know which one of us they will actually "keep" (two fellows were kicked out last April at the real research proposal defence). I've attached the new school brochure where there is a nice big picture of me in "serious discussion" with Kwan, my Thai classmate who used to work with the World Bank. You can tell that the school dedicates a fair amount of money and work on public relations and marketing. *lol*
I received an email from my Belgian IMPALLA coursemate, suggesting dinner and an overnight stay at her house in Belgium this coming Wednesday. Also invited are her boyfriend, Emiliano (my Italian ex-coursemate) and Mariya (my Bulgarian ex-coursemate who is doing her internship in Brussels and was visiting me two weeks ago). All four of us did one groupwork together and got along really well in Luxembourg. It should be a nice reunion. =.)
This weekend is unexciting as I am working on my research topic for Monday's research tutorial. *lol* Two weeks ago, I was interested to do something on higher education. This week, I am exploring the literature on housing and segregation (mainly on immigrants). I should settle on one (broad) research topic soon - research fellows are required to show the ability to *focus*!
Ooops, I just realised that it is 5am! Time to wrap up and catch some sleep.
Please direct emails to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Until I have sorted out my computer problems, I will not be able to open the mails unless I do it at the internet café.
After I have terminated the account, I realised I still have emails in different folders and email addresses which might be lost forever but that is something to be expected from an IT unsavvy person like myself.
Using an old computer, making do with whatever softwares that are still working and I have again encountered the same problem I had before when I subscribed for Streamyx – unable to access email using streamyx.
Like before, I had to use Tmnet, which is time-based to access mail from tmnet, streamyx and yahoo. To deal with the unfair situation, I had to leave out those mails with big attachments until I can sort out the cause of it. I could not help thinking this could be a deliberate ruse by Telekom! Reason? Why did it happen to me twice?
It was with some comfort to read about IT-savvy person like Jeff Ooi having similar problems though unrelated:
OCTOBER 25, 2007
"Gmail blues... ( 3 )
I don't have time to plot the proxy server settings to access my Gmail. But it bugs me for the 4th day now"
I have tried following instructions from Tmnet website to the letter, yet unable to solve it.
I subscribed for Streamyx again on Sept 10 and got to use it effective from Sept 13. I used my Tmnet account to check mail only which took between 10 to 30 minutes.
When I received my latest internet bill (access at 1 sen per minute) for month to Oct 10, amounting to Rm26.84, I decided to terminate the account as it will be always my word against them and in all probability, someone could have got my password and used my account.
I stopped using tmnet, except for checking mail, since Sept 13. Yet the latest bill, which would have included my past normal usage for 2 days only (Sept 11 and 12), costed Rm26.84. I have calculated, using my highest amount for the last 6 months ie. 64.83 to work out my 2 days’ average cost and it came to 4.32. Deduct this from 26.84 and the balance of 22.52 for my 28 days works out to 80 sen per day or 80 minutes! I am the only one at home using the computer and I made it a point to use tmnet for checking mail without attachments if I could resist it. The first two days when I started to record, I used only 7 and 8 minutes. Sometimes, if I am not expecting urgent mail from my children, I checked after 2 days. The reason for this particular exercise is to prove to myself that some billing systems are unreliable or like in this case, someone could be secretly using my account. Once proven, then I can make a decision to terminate the account without further argument.
We had a bad experience with Celcom before it was taken over by Telekom. Certain calls for previous month were included in the following month’s bill and when asked was explained as having missed in the previous billing. Just like that. Since then, we have stuck to prepaid in spite of all the attractive offers for post-paid. Those really good offers have minimum amounts, which are higher than our usage so it defeats the purpose of saving.
All along I was unhappy with the tmnet bills (because of different names) using different dates, which make it impossible to check the accuracy. Eg. our telephone billing date is 25th which includes the internet 1515 rate at 1.5 sen per minute while the internet billing date is 10th which charges internet access at 1 sen per minute.
For the record, my Tmnet bills for the past 6 months were as follows:
May 74.76 /64.83
Jun 64.32 /47.91
Jul 29.31 /47.68
Aug 60.67 /22.99
Sep 33.30 /34.10
Oct ? /26.84
For the month of July, I was away from July 6 till July 31 which made it all the more difficult to check for any unusual charges.
Note the combined amounts far exceeded the unlimited broadband charges, which start from Rm66 per month. That was in spite of much restraint in usage (eg. in May averaging 3 hours per day!) But for this I had myself to blame for putting off subscribing for Streamyx because of my phobia.
What is important now is the use of broadband for internet banking, especially for real-time stock prices and trading, update my blogsite and be able to surf without worrying about the time. The email problem will hopefully be sorted out when the technician comes.
By the way, Mary Schneider had described her frustration before when dealing with recorded messages.
Last Friday, around 4 pm, I wanted to terminate my tmnet account but I was unsure of Telekom’s closing time. I called 3669191 which I had in my list. A recorded message directed me to 100. After dialling 100, select 1 for Bahasa Malaysia and 2 for English; then select 1 for telephony and data services, 2 for internet, 3 for Celcom; then select 1 for technical assistance, 2 for billing, etc. etc. I used to walk past Kedai Telekom almost every day, yet I cannot dial a number to speak to one of them to enquire about closing time!
Sometimes, I prefer the good old days.
Friday, October 26, 2007
We cannot know how Bobby Jindal will do just yet, but I am intrigued by his win. The fact that a first-generation American from India could win the governorship of a traditionally conservative state like Louisiana speaks volumes for opportunity in the US for talented people with a penchant for hard work. On TV I watched as all these little old white ladies shook his hand with great enthusiasm. He had replaced a white woman Governor who had been severely criticised for bungling rehabilitation efforts after Hurricane Katrina.
The fact that Jindal is very educated and had been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford is definitely a plus point.
In Perak recently, the MB called for graduates to be selected as election candidates. That’s all very well but let’s hope they are real graduates and not the ones who get dubious doctorates from unheard of universities.
But we also know, having a degree from a prestigious university is no guarantee either that you’ll be a good politician or leader. For some people, entering politics is license to throw all that education out of the window in favour of the crassiest politically expedient slogans. Which makes them no better than the local village thug in my book.
Jindal also has a CV that is heavy on experience in public policy. For twelve years he successfully managed Louisiana’s health and hospitals department, sought to reform their Medicaid system and then went on to the Federal Government to become Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation of Health and Human Services.
All that experience brought to bear when he returned to his home state to enter politics where he successfully ran for election to the US Congress twice. So he’s not a parachute Governor by any stretch of the imagination, despite his young age.
I have to sigh when I read about Bobby Jindal. When faced with the dimwits we have in Cabinet and Parliament, I have to feel depressed.
Are we ever going to hear our politicians say, as Bobby Jindal did in his victory speech: “One thing I know for sure, you can get a distorted view sitting in the halls of government. Things start to look different."
“The lobbyists begin to look larger and the people begin to look smaller. Reality becomes distorted. I’ve seen it in Congress as well. I’m not going to let that happen to me.” Or this: “I have said throughout the campaign that there are two entities that have the most to fear from us winning this election - One is Corruption, and the other is his sidekick Incompetence. If you happen to see either of them, please let them know the party is over.”
Now this is no opposition politician speaking. He’s in the same party as George W. Bush. But all the same, he’s talking about corruption and incompetence generally, not corruption and incompetence only if they’re by anyone not in the same party. Is it any wonder that I find it refreshing?
It would be really great if we could only scrutinise all our political candidates closely before they stand for elections. We should be able to ask them what their stand is on many issues such as the Constitution, freedom of speech and of religion, on women, on the judiciary. They can have whatever opinion they want but whether we agree or not is what will decide whether they get our vote. Instead we have to vote on what party the candidate is from, rather than the individual him or herself. That’s maybe OK for the truly useless candidates but for those who do have some integrity and talent, it must be a bit insulting.
I’m sure there are people out there dying to showcase their talents and ideas and market those ahead of the next elections. But they won’t get much of a chance because there is no room for individuality in our system, especially not individual integrity.
I read an article the other day about how campaigns by candidates with real integrity in the US get taken over by the party political marketing de-partments so that they become moulded into the type of candidate that the party wants them to be.
Some of them become successful politicians but with the sacrifice of their own souls. Those who cannot hack that loss of personal integrity eventually quit politics altogether.
Guess that isn’t a problem when we start off with soul-less politicians anyway.
The old woman sat in the backseat of the magenta convertible as it careened down the highway, clutching tightly to the plastic bag on her lap, afraid it may be kidnapped by the wind. She was not used to such speed, with trembling hands she pulled the seatbelt tighter but was careful not to touch the patent leather seats with her callused fingers, her daughter had warned her not to dirty it, 'Fingerprints show very clearly on white, Ma.'
Her daughter, Bee Choo, was driving and talking on her sleek silver mobile phone using big words the old woman could barely understand. 'Finance' 'Liquidation' 'Assets' 'Investments' ... Her voice was crisp and important and had an unfamiliar lilt to it. Her Bee Choo sounded like one of those foreign girls on television. She was speaking in an American accent. The old lady clucked her tongue in disapproval.
'I absolutely cannot have this. We have to sell!' Her daughter exclaimed agitatedly as she stepped on the accelerator; her perfectly manicured fingernails gripping onto the steering wheel in irritation.
'I can't DEAL with this anymore!' she yelled as she clicked the phone shut and hurled it angrily toward the backseat. The mobile phone hit the old woman on the forehead and nestled soundlessly into her lap. She calmly picked it up and handed it to her daughter.
'Sorry, Ma,' she said, losing the American pretence and switching to Mandarin. 'I have a big client in America. There have been a lot of problems.' The old lady nodded knowingly. Her daughter was big and important.
Bee Choo stared at her mother from the rear view window, wondering what she was thinking. Her mother's wrinkled countenance always carried the same cryptic look.
The phone began to ring again, an artificially cheerful digital tune, which broke the awkward silence. 'Hello, Beatrice! Yes, this is Elaine.' Elaine. The old woman cringed. I didn't name her Elaine. She remembered her daughter telling her, how an English name was very important for 'networking' , Chinese ones being easily forgotten.
'Oh no, I can't see you for lunch today. I have to take the ancient relic to the temple for her weird daily prayer ritual.'
Ancient Relic. The old woman understood perfectly it was referring to her. Her daughter always assumed that her mother's silence meant she did not comprehend.
'Yes, I know! My car seats will be reeking of joss sticks!' The old woman pursed her lips tightly, her hands gripping her plastic bag in defence. The car curved smoothly into the temple courtyard. It looked almost garish next to the dull sheen of the aging temple's roof. The old woman got out of the back seat, and made her unhurried way to the main hall.
Her daughter stepped out of the car in her business suit and stilettos and reapplied her lipstick as she made her brisk way to her mother's side.
'Ma, I'll wait outside. I have an important phone call to make,' she said, not bothering to hide her disgust at the pungent fumes of incense.
The old lady hobbled into the temple hall and lit a joss stick, she knelt down solemnly and whispered her now familiar daily prayer to the Gods.
Thank you God of the Sky, you have given my daughter luck all these years. Everything I prayed for, you have given her. She has everything a young woman in this world could possibly want. She has a big house with a swimming pool, a maid to help her, as she is too clumsy to sew or cook.
Her love life has been blessed; she is engaged to a rich and handsome angmoh man. Her company is now the top financial firm and even men listen to what she says. She lives the perfect life. You have given her everything except happiness. I ask that the gods be merciful to her even if she has lost her roots while reaping the harvest of success.
What you see is not true, she is a filial daughter to me. She gives me a room in her big house and provides well for me. She is rude to me only because I affect her happiness. A young woman does not want to be hindered by her old mother. It is my fault.
The old lady prayed so hard that tears welled up in her eyes. Finally, with her head bowed in reverence she planted the half-burnt joss stick into an urn of smouldering ashes. She bowed once more.
The old woman had been praying for her daughter for thirty-two years. When her stomach was round like a melon, she came to the temple and prayed that it was a son. Then the time was ripe and the baby slipped out of her womb, bawling and adorable with fat thighs and pink cheeks, but unmistakably, a girl. Her husband had kicked and punched her for producing a useless baby who could not work or carry the family name.
Still, the woman returned to the temple with her newborn girl tied to her waist in a sarong and prayed that her daughter would grow up and have everything she ever wanted. Her husband left her and she prayed that her daughter would never have to depend on a man.
She prayed every day that her daughter would be a great woman, the woman that she, meek and uneducated, could never become. A woman with nengkan; the ability to do anything she set her mind to. A woman who commanded respect in the hearts of men. When she opened her mouth to speak, precious pearls would fall out and men would listen.
She will not be like me, the woman prayed as she watched her daughter grow up and drift away from her, speaking a language she scarcely understood. She watched her daughter transform from a quiet girl, to one who openly defied her, calling her laotu; old-fashioned. She wanted her mother to be 'modern', a word so new there was no Chinese word for it.
Now her daughter was too clever for her and the old woman wondered why she had prayed like that. The gods had been faithful to her persistent prayer, but the wealth and success that poured forth so richly had buried the girl's roots and now she stood, faceless, with no identity, bound to the soil of her ancestors by only a string of origami banknotes.
Her daughter had forgotten her mother's values. Her wants were so ephemeral; that of a modern woman. Power, Wealth, access to the best fashion boutiques, and yet her daughter had not found true happiness. The old woman knew that you could find happiness with much less. When her daughter left the earth everything she had would count for nothing. People would look to her legacy and say that she was a great woman, but she would be forgotten once the wind blows over, like the ashes of burnt paper convertibles and mansions.
The old woman wished she could go back and erase all her big hopes and prayers for her daughter; now she had only one want: That her daughter be happy. She looked out of the temple gate. She saw her daughter speaking on the phone, her brow furrowed with anger and worry. Being at the top is not good, the woman thought, there is only one way to go from there - down.
The old woman carefully unfolded the plastic bag and spread out a packet of beehoon in front of the altar. Her daughter often mocked her for worshiping porcelain Gods. How could she pray to them so faithfully and expect pieces of ceramic to fly to her aid? But her daughter had her own gods too, idols of wealth, success and power that she was enslaved to and worshiped every day of her life.
Every day was a quest for the idols, and the idols she worshiped counted for nothing in eternity. All the wants her daughter had would slowly suck the life out of her and leave her, an empty soulless shell at the altar.
The old lady watched her joss tick. The dull heat had left a teetering grey stem that was on the danger of collapsing. Modern woman nowadays, the old lady sighed in resignation, as she bowed to the east one final time to end her ritual. Modern woman nowadays want so much that they lose their souls and wonder why they cannot find it.
Her joss stick disintegrated into a soft grey powder. She met her daughter outside the temple, the same look of worry and frustration was etched on her daughter's face. An empty expression, as if she was ploughing through the soil of her wants looking for the one thing that would sow the seeds of happiness.
They climbed into the convertible in silence and her daughter drove along the highway, this time not as fast as she had done before.
'Ma,' Bee Choo finally said. 'I don't know how to put this. Mark and I have been talking about it and we plan to move out of the big house. The property market is good now, and we managed to get a buyer willing to pay seven million for it. We decided we'd prefer a cosier penthouse apartment instead. We found a perfect one in Orchard Road. Once we move in to our apartment we plan to get rid of the maid, so we can have more space to ourselves... '
The old woman nodded knowingly. Bee Choo swallowed hard. 'We'd get someone to come in to do the housework and we can eat out - but once the maid is gone, there won't be anyone to look after you. You will be awfully lonely at home and, besides that, the apartment is rather small. There won't be space. We thought about it for a long time, and we decided the best thing for you is if you moved to a Home. There's one near Hougang - it's a Christian home, a very nice one.'
The old woman did not raise an eyebrow. 'I've been there, the matron is willing to take you in. It's beautiful with gardens and lots of old people to keep you company! I hardly have time for you, you'd be happier there.'
'You'd be happier there, really.' Her daughter repeated as if to affirm herself. This time the old woman had no plastic bag of food offerings to cling tightly to; she bit her lip and fastened her seat belt, as if it would protect her from a daughter who did not want her anymore. She sunk deep into the leather seat, letting her shoulders sag, and her fingers trace the white seat.
'Ma?' her daughter asked, searching the rear view window for her mother. 'Is everything okay?' What had to be done, had to be done. 'Yes,' she said firmly, louder than she intended, 'if it will make you happy,' she added more quietly.
'It's for you, Ma! You'll be happier there. You can move there tomorrow, I already got the maid to pack your things.' Elaine said triumphantly, mentally ticking yet another item off her agenda. 'I knew everything would be fine.'
Elaine smiled widely; she felt liberated. Perhaps getting rid of her mother would make her happier. She had thought about it. It seemed the only hindrance in her pursuit of happiness. She was happy now. She had everything a modern woman ever wanted; Money, Status, Career, Love, Power and now, Freedom, without her mother and her old-fashioned ways to weigh her down...
Yes, she was free. Her phone buzzed urgently, she picked it up and read the message, still beaming from ear to ear. 'Stocks 10% increase!'
Yes, things were definitely beginning to look up for her... And while searching for the meaning of life in the luminance of her hand phone screen, the old woman in the backseat became invisible, and she did not see the tears.
This is an essay submitted by a 15-year-old Singaporean, which has won the top prize in a Commonwealth Essay Contest that drew 5,300 entries from 52 countries.
In the annual Commonwealth Essay Competition, Amanda Chong of Raffles Girls' School (Secondary) chose to compete in the older category and won.
(Amazing how a teenager can see through our modern follies. She is sensitive and mature for her age.)
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
However, the doctor noticed a jar of pickled onions on his nurse's desk. Taking an onion, and realizing it was the right size and weight, he placed it in Charlie's scrotum and completed the operation.
A few months later Charlie returned for a check up.
When the doctor asked how things were going, Charlie replied. "Pretty good, Doc. At least my wife's not pregnant, but there are some strange side effects. Every time we make love, my wife gets heartburn; when I pee my eyes water; and whenever I pass a hamburger stand, I have an erection."
Size: 0.17 sq. mi. (0.44 km²)
Population: 783 (2005 census)
Location: Rome, Italy
The size of a golf course, the Vatican City [wiki official website] is the smallest country in the world. It's basically a walled enclave inside of Rome, Italy. It's so small that the entire country does not have a single street address.
The Vatican City may be small, but it is very powerful. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See, or the seat of the Catholic Church (basically its central government), which has over 1 billion people (about 1 in 6 people on the planet) as constituents.
The Vatican City was created in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty (which was signed by one of history's most repressive dictators, Benito Mussolini) and is ruled by the Pope, basically a non-hereditary, elected monarch who rules with absolute authority (he's the legislative, executive and judiciary all rolled into one) - indeed, the Pope is the only absolute monarch in Europe.
Another unique thing about the smallest country in the world is that it has no permanent citizens. Citizenship of the Vatican City is conferred upon those who work at the Vatican (as well as their spouses and children) and is revoked when they stop working there
The Vatican City is guarded by the smallest and oldest regular army in the world, the Swiss Guard [wiki]. It was originally made up of Swiss mercenaries in 1506, now the army (also personal bodyguards of the Pope) number 100, all of which are Catholic unmarried male Swiss citizens. The Swiss Guard's Renaissance-style uniform was commonly attributed as to have been designed by Michelangelo - this was actually incorrect: the large "skirt" pants were a common s tyle during the Renaissance. Only their uniforms seem antiquated: most of the Swiss Guards carry pistols and submachine-guns.
The official languages of the Vatican City are Latin and Italian. In fact, its ATMs are the only ones in the world that offer services in Latin! And here you thought that Latin is a dead language…
For a country that has no street address, the Vatican City has a very efficient post office: an international mail dropped in the Vatican will get there faster than one dropped in Italy just a few hundred yard away - in fact, there is more mail sent annually per inhabitant from this country (7,200 mails per person) than anywhere else in the world.
The Vatican City has a country code top level domain of .va - currently there are only 9 publicly known .va domains [wiki]. It also has a radio broadcasting service, called Vatican Radio [wiki], which was set up by Guglielmo Marconi (the Father of Radio) himself!
The country's economy is unique: it is the only non-commercial economy in the world. Instead, the Vatican City is supported financially by contributions of Catholics worldwide (called Peter's Pence - hey, even the Pope accepts credit cards!), the sale of postage stamps and publications, and tourism.
Lastly, as an ecclesiastical paradise, the Vatican City has no taxes.
Monaco [wiki official website] is the second smallest country on Earth (it's roughly the size of New York's Central Park), yet it's the most densely populated (23,660 people per km²). Actually, Monaco used to be much smaller than it is now - about 100 acres were reclaimed from the sea and added to its land size. At the narrowest, Monaco is only 382 yards wide!
The Principality of Monaco, its formal name, means that the territory is ruled by a prince. For the last seven centuries, Monaco was ruled by princes of the Grimaldi family from Genoa. (The whole thing started one night in 1297 when François Grimaldi disguised himself as a monk and led a small army to conquer the fortress guarding the Rock of Monaco. The coat of arms of the Grimaldi bears the image of monks with swords!) Now, the Prince shares legislative authority with a National Council.
In 1861, Monaco relinquished half of its territory to France in exchange for cash and independence. When the reigning prince realized that most of Monaco's natural resources were on the land that got bartered away, he decided to bet the whole economy on … what else, gambling (see, casinos aren't only for American Indians, it's a time-tested, universal solution!)
And so began Monte Carlo [wiki], a region of Monaco well known for its glamorous casinos (a setting for Ian Fleming's first James Bond Novel Casino Royale [wiki]) and its Formula One Grand Prix.
In 1918, Monaco entered a treaty with France for military protection - the treaty, however, also stipulated that Monaco would lose its independence (and become French) should the reigning Grimaldi prince died without leaving a male heir! When Prince Rainier III took over, he was a bachelor and most Monegasques (that means people of Monaco) were gloomy about the country's future. However, he ended up marrying Hollywood actress Grace Kelly [wiki] - the marriage not only produced a male heir, it also helped burnish Monaco's image as a glamorous place to be for the wealthy. (Monaco can rest easy now, a new treaty with France stated that the Principality will remain independent even without a male heir).
For a long time, Monaco had no income taxes and was a tax haven for wealthy foreigners and international corporations. This caused a unique thing about Monaco's population: most of its residents are not native - in fact, only about 1 in 5 people are native Monegasques. After a long dispute with France, Monaco started to impose income taxes on all of its residents who are not born there. Its natural citizens are forbidden from entering casinos, but to make up for it, they do not have to pay any income taxes.
With the formal name of The Most Serene Republic of San Marino [wiki], it's not surprising that San Marino has got lots of charms. Founded in AD 301 by a Christian stonecutter named (what else) Marino (or Marinus, depending on who you ask), who along with a small group of Christians, was seeking escape from religious persecution, San Marino is the world's oldest republic.
Its history belies its simple motto: "Liberty." Indeed, San Marino was such a good neighbour, that it was hardly ever conquered by larger enemies (it was briefly conquered in the 1500s and the 1700s, for like a month each). Even when Napoleon gobbled most of Europe, he left San Marino alone, saying it was a model republic!
San Marino takes its government seriously: for such a tiny country, San Marino has a very complex government structure, based on a constitution written in 1600. The country is ruled by an elected Council of 60, who appoints 2 captain regents (from opposing political parties, no less) to administer governmental affairs for six-month term. Talk about preserving liberties through division of authority!
Before World War II, San Marino was amongst the poorest countries in Europe. Today, with more than 3 million tourists visiting every year (half of San Marino's income is derived from tourism), the people of San Marino are amongst the world's richest people
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
When asked what the problem was, the wife went into a passionate, painful tirade listing every problem they had ever had in the 15 years they had been married.
She went on and on and on: neglect, lack of intimacy, emptiness, loneliness, feeling unloved and unlovable, an entire laundry list of un-met needs she had endured over the course of their marriage.
Finally, after allowing this to go on for a sufficient length of time, the therapist got up, walked around the desk and, after asking the wife to stand, embraced and kissed her passionately.
The woman shut up and quietly sat down as though in a daze.
The therapist turned to the husband and said, "This is what your wife needs at least three times a week. Can you do this?"
The husband thought for a moment and replied ... "Well, I can drop her off here on Mondays and Wednesdays, but on Fridays, I fish!
It wasn’t a problem as my wife is quite attached to Jun who with her dad joined us in our car. Moreover, my wife had wanted to join this talk on Nyonya ceramic ware at the Central Market in KL, given by a Professor from Singapore and our local expert and collector, Datin Kee Yong Wee. P.G. Lim, the biggest collector, could not make it, probably too soon after his brother’s funeral.
I normally try to avoid making arrangement first with my friend, KC aka ‘Kan Cheong’ but not expecting such last minute change of plans, I had told him earlier. I had also asked if Sunday morning or afternoon is ok as my wife’s nephew, Shaun, might be joining our jam session and he has futsal in the evening.
After Saturday night stay, it was time for breakfast. I suggested my usual coffee shop where they have pig’s tribe in pepper soup during weekends, which I have yet to try and knowing that my wife loves it too. She suggested ‘pan mee’ a type of noodle which is made on the spot. Though it turned out a good idea that she listened to me (as it turned out, my nephew said he never touched pan mee since they had it very often when his parents had to scrimp when he was a kid) I did not know Sunday was such a busy day that all the nice things I used to have during weekdays were finished. Anyway, they did not want a heavy breakfast because they had lunch appointment in KL at 1 pm with his sisters and families.
We left BG past 11 am and I felt pressured knowing that I could not make it in time, knowing the NSE is still undergoing widening works. On the way, I felt my pocket where I normally put my handphone, not realising that for the first time, I had the key pouch there instead. Almost nearing Rawang, I thought of calling KC and realised that I had left the phone for charging. Suddenly, my mind was in a confused state. We tend to rely too much on the phone memory and fortunately, I could remember KC’s house number. Though we were advised to go via Rawang because they were supposed to meet in Batu Caves, the more direct trunk road has its disadvantage of dealing with local town traffic and I actually missed a turn because of new development projects, which put me off the usual track.
Anyway, we were in such a hurry that as soon as we arrived at the entrance to Batu Caves, William and Jun quickly got off after a quick goodbye and joined his son’s car. I did not have a chance to say hello to my nieces and their families, as I had to rush to reach Central Market by 2 pm! I asked my wife to call KC to let him know where I was. It was a smooth drive all the way and I dropped her along Jalan Tun Perak, outside OCBC. Later she told me she was in time for registration. She did not book before hand because she was undecided earlier.
It was just nice for my wife but I was caught in a massive jam because of the pre-Hari Raya shoppers. It took me half an hour to drive from Jalan Tun Perak, Leboh Ampang, Jalan Ampang, past Kompleks Wilayah to turn into Jalan Dang Wangi, then round Sogo to join Jalan Raja Laut.
By the time I reached Sentul, it was 2.45pm. When I entered the home studio, my friends said they were waiting since 9.30am! Though it was hard to believe it really put me off for being so late. When I suggested contacting Shaun, they said it was too late already.
So with a bad start, I took hold of the bass guitar and tried jamming with them. Somehow, I find the tuning wrong. Yet when I tried it out, KC said it was ok. Musicians will know what it is like playing with a wrongly tuned instrument. It was terrible. To make matters worse, KC suggested songs, which I wasn’t familiar with. So it was one disaster after another until I decided to tune the first string according to what I think was right and it improved a little. The important thing is also that the tuning must be right to the user, psychologically I think.
It was so much better the last time (pre-Merdeka Day celebration) when I was staying with Richard in Setapak. Because he had to be home and also because KC’s place was undergoing ‘termite baiting’ treatment which could be upset with loud music, KC decided to bring over two amplifiers and two guitars. Richard had his at home. We could play straight away old tunes like Theme for Young lovers, Peace Pipe, Apache and even a song like Wooly Bully, and felt pleased with it. The other important thing is to play catchy familiar tunes known to everyone. Maybe we had with us, our biggest fan then, Richard’s Indo maid who was due to leave the next day, to provide some inspiration!
Without my handphone, I had to tell my wife that I would give a miss call using KC’s so that in case we were not in his house, she could reach me. Anyway, Richard had to go back at 4.30pm simply because he has a little dog in the house and she would mess up the place if he is not back in time! Poor Richie Rich home alone now in charge of selling his family house.
While waiting for call to fetch my wife, KC’s wife mentioned that Endon’s family used to live two houses away and that her sister used to be her classmate in Convent Sentul! She remembers them as a big family of eleven siblings and frequent kenduris.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
“On 15 October 2007, the Chief Minister of Melaka, Mohd Ali Rustam, officiated the People’s Progressive Party’s state convention."
"He stood on stage in front of the entire hall filled with PPP leaders and members and with fingers pointed said that PPP can leave Barisan Nasional. Leave today, or even tomorrow, said Ali Rustam, just don’t wait for the next election before leaving."
"The PPP President and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk M. Kayveas, fidgeted in his seat, as did the entire hall."
"Nobody reacted. Nobody could react. They were all too shocked to react and just sat there for the next one and a half hours as Ali Rustam told PPP and the entire non-Malay population of Malaysia that they are insignificant and Umno does not need them."
"Umno has ruled Malaysia for 50 years, said Ali Rustam, and they can rule for another 50 years more. And Umno does not need PPP, MCA, MIC, Gerakan, Sabah, Sarawak or anyone else to do this."
"Umno does not need any of the component members of Barisan Nasional, Ali Rustam went on. Umno has four million members and it can win the elections without the help of the rest of the component members of Barisan Nasional. Umno has been strong for 50 years and it will continue ruling this country for the next 50 years as well, Ali Rustam assured the assembly of PPP leaders and members."
"PPP had better not ask for any seat in Melaka, Ali Rustam warned the assembly. If Perak wants to allow PPP a seat then that is up to the Perak Menteri Besar. That is his own decision and the party does not support him on this matter. After all the Perak Menteri is a kaki bodek, said Ali Rustam to the shocked audience who could not believe they were hearing all this."
"And as if what he had said thus far was not shocking enough, Ali Rustam took a swipe at the Pahang Menteri Besar. If the Pahang Menteri Besar wants to give you a seat in Pahang then that is his problem. He is crazy and he does crazy things. He can give PPP a seat in Pahang. Why ask from the other states? And the icing on the cake was when Ali Rustam said that if the Prime Minister gives PPP a seat then he has no balls (pengecut). Tak boleh ikut cara dia, Ali Rustam boldly declared."
The reason I am posting this is for future reference and to follow up on further actions by Ali Rustam and PPP. I am always amazed at the insults some politicians can take just for positions, power and wealth. Though politics is the art of the impossible, I am anxious to know how Kayveas can come out of this with his pride intact.
My personal wish is to see other coalition partners withdraw from BN, holding their heads high, and let Umno keep all the positions and power. If boycott of the general election can be suggested as a means of not giving them legitimacy, why not be ordinary MPs and ADUNs with the freedom to speak out?
He approaches the bartender and asks, "What's with the jar?"
"Well, you pay $10 and if you pass three tests, you get all the money and the keys to a brand new Corvette Z06."
The man certainly isn't going to pass this up. "What are the three tests?"
"Pay first, those are the rules," says the bartender.
So the man gives him the $10 and the bartender drops it into the jar.
"OK," the bartender says, "Here's what you need to do:
First -you have to drink that entire litre of pepper tequila, the whole thing, all at once and you can't make a face while doing it."
"Second, there's a pit bull chained-up out back with a sore tooth. You have to remove the tooth with your bare hands."
"Third - there's a 90-year old woman upstairs who has never had an orgasm. You've gotta make things right for her."
The man is stunned. "I know I paid my $10, but I'm not an idiot! I won't do it! You have to be nuts to drink a litre of pepper tequila, and then do those other things..."
"Your call," says the bartender, "but your money stays where it is."
As time goes on and the man has a few drinks, then a few more, he asks, "Where ez zat tequila?" He grabs the litre with both hands and downs it with a big slurp. Tears stream down both cheeks, but he doesn't make a face.
Next, he staggers out back where the pit bull is chained up and soon the people inside the bar hear a huge, noisy, scuffle going on outside. They hear the pit bull barking, the guy screaming, the pit bull yelping and then... Silence.
Just when they think the man surely must be dead, he staggers back into the bar, with his shirt ripped and large bloody scratches all over his body.
"Now," he says... "Where's the old woman with the sore tooth?"
Friday, October 19, 2007
The husband cringed, "I warned you to be careful! Now we'll have to go up there, find the owner, apologize and see how much your lousy drive is going to cost us."
So the couple walked up to the house and knocked on the door. A warm voice said, "Come on in." When they opened the door they saw the damage that was done: glass was all over the place, and a broken antique bottle was lying on its side near the pieces of window glass.
A man reclining on the couch asked, "Are you the people that broke my window?"
"Uh...yeah! sir. We're sure sorry about that," the husband replied.
Oh, no apology is necessary. Actually I want to thank you. You see, I'm a genie, and I've been trapped in that bottle for a thousand years. Now that you've released me, I'm allowed to grant three wishes. I'll give you each one wish, but if you don't mind, I'll keep the last one for myself."
Wow, that's great!" the husband said. He pondered a moment and blurted out, "I'd like a million dollars a year for the rest of my life."
"No problem," said the genie "You've got it, it's the least I can do. And I'll guarantee you a long, healthy life!" "And now you, young lady, what do you want?" the genie asked.
"I'd like to own a gorgeous home complete with servants in every country in the world," she said.
"Consider it done," the genie said. "And your homes will always be safe from fire, burglary and natural disasters!"
"And now," the couple asked in unison, "what's your wish, genie?"
Well, since I've been trapped in that bottle, and haven't been with a woman in more than a thousand years, my wish is to have sex with your wife."
The husband looked at his wife and said, "Gee, honey, you know we both now have a fortune, and all those houses. What do you think?"
She mulled it over for a few moments and said, "You know, you're right. Considering our good fortune, I guess I wouldn't mind, but what about you, honey?"
You know I love you sweetheart," said the husband. I'd do the same for you!"
So the genie and the woman went upstairs where they spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying each other. The genie was insatiable. After about three hours of non-stop sex, the genie rolled over and looked directly into her eyes and asked, "How old are you and your husband?"
"Why, we're both 35," she responded breathlessly.
"No kidding," he said. "Thirty-five years old and both of you still believe in genies?"
There's no one else in the area and his cellphone reception is dead, so he stops his car. Sure enough, there's a beautiful woman in the car, but she's bleeding to death. The guy reckons "screw it" and rushes home to fetch a blanket. He gets back, puts the blanket on the back seat of his M3, and puts the woman on the blanket. He then rushes her to hospital.
Six months she lies in the hospital, and he is with her every day and every night. He donates blood to keep her alive. Eventually, she recovers fully, and they get married.
Life is cool for a few years, until one day she gets fed up and decides to leave him. His love of money is obvious, and she feels like a trophy wife.
As she comes down the stairs, struggling with her two suitcases, she reaches into her pocket for the keys to the Jaguar. Sure enough, he stops her before she reaches the door and asks, "What are you doing?"
"I'm leaving you," she says.
"Oh really, and how are you going to leave? The keys in your hand are for the Jaguar I paid for. It's my car. You're not taking it anywhere."
"Fine," she says, and throws the keys at him.
"And those bulging suitcases? The clothes you're wearing?
Everything, I've paid for. They are my suitcases and my clothes. You're not taking them anywhere."
"Fine," she says, and throws the suitcases at him. She strips down completely and throws her clothes at him too.
"And the blood in your body? I sat with you for six months in the hospital. You know half of the blood is mine. You're not going anywhere."
She pulls out her tampon and says, "Fine! I'll pay you back in monthly instalments."
Thursday, October 18, 2007
After leaving the camera shop, I headed to Tesco Extra in Bercham, Ipoh. As I was driving out of the compound, I got a call from Futuromic Photo confirming that the camera is under warranty and the repairs will be carried out free of charge.
Being a pessimist, I would not celebrate until I have got back the camera in working condition, free of charge.
Today, on October 18, I have just collected Cheng’s Ricoh digicam from Poon Photo. Therefore, I am able to say that the Distributors for Ricoh, Futuromic Photo AV Sdn Bhd have been excellent in this aspect of after sales service and especially in honouring the warranty of their products.
My letter below will show why I am so grateful:
September 4, 2007
Futuromic Photo AV Sdn Bhd
Camera defect during warranty period
I wish to refer to the Ricoh Caplio R4, which was returned to your dealer, Messrs. Poon Photo of Ipoh on August 24, 2007 for repairs. Though it would appear that it was done outside the warranty period ie. by August 12, I wish to explain in detail how the delay occurred.
I bought the camera for my daughter, Cheng, who was then studying in Luxembourg. In fact, her original choice was a Canon (please refer to the last paragraph of her email dated July2, 2007), which also showed the subject of our discussion was the replacement of her Ricoh camera, which was not working already.
We visited her this summer and we brought back the camera when we returned to Malaysia on July 31, 2007. Because of jetlag and not having found the warranty card, we forgot about the matter until one day we decided to send to Poon Photo to see if it was worth repairing.
I should be most grateful if you would give me the benefit of any doubt as to our right to claim repairs within the warranty period.
I look forward to a favourable reply from you. Thank you.
On the various causes of cancer, I find the following worth highlighting and leave the technical stuff to the professionals:-
1. No plastic containers in micro.
2. No water bottles in freezer.
3. No plastic wrap in microwave.
Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, un-forgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.
The baker evidently lost the scripture reference, but working from memory, beautifully inscribed on the cake "John 4:18".
Imagine the shock of the few faithful who looked up the reference to read:
"For you have had five husbands, and the man you have now is not your husband." said Jesus to the woman of Samaria.
Murphy, saddened and shocked by the news, but of solid character, managed to compose himself and walk from the doctor's office into the waiting room. There he saw his son who had been waiting.
Murphy said, "Son, we Irish celebrate when things are good and we celebrate when things don't go so well. In this case, things aren't so well. I have cancer and I've been given a short time to live. Let's head for the pub and have a few pints.
After three or four pints the two were feeling a little less sombre. There were some laughs and more beers. They were approached by some of Murphy's old friends who asked what the two were celebrating. Murphy told them that the Irish celebrate the good and the bad. He went on to tell them that they were drinking to his impending end.
He told his friends "I've only got a few weeks to live as I have been diagnosed with AIDS." The friends gave Murphy their condolences and they had a couple more beers.
After his friends left, Murphy's son leaned over and whispered his confusion.
"Dad, I thought you said that you were dying from cancer? You just told your friends that you were dying from AIDS?"
Murphy said, "I am dying from cancer son, I just don't want any of them sleeping with your mother after I'm gone!"
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
"In October of 2001, my sister started getting very sick. She had stomach spasms and she was having a hard time getting around. Walking was a major chore. It took everything she had just to get out of bed; she was in so much pain.
By March 2002, she had undergone several tissue and muscle biopsies and was on 24 various prescription medications. The doctors could not determine what was wrong with her. She was in so much pain, and so sick. She just knew she was dying. She put her house, bank accounts, life insurance, etc., in her oldest daughter's name, and made sure that her younger children were to be taken care of.
She also wanted her last hooray, so she planned a trip to Florida (basically in a wheelchair) for March 22nd .
On March 19 I called her to ask how her most recent tests went, and she said they didn't find anything on the test, but they believe she had MS.
I recalled an article a friend of mine e-mailed to me and I asked my sister if she drank diet soda? She told me that she did. As a matter of fact, she was getting ready to crack one open that moment.
I told her not to open it, and to stop drinking the diet soda!
I e-mailed her, the article my friend, a lawyer, had sent.
My sister called me within 32 hours after our phone conversation and told me she had stopped drinking the diet soda AND she could walk! The muscle spasms went away. She said she didn't feel 100% but she sure felt a lot better. She told me she was going to her doctor with this article and would call me when she got home.
Well, she called me, and said her doctor was amazed! He is going to call all of his MS patients to find out if they consumed artificial sweeteners of any kind. In a nutshell, she was being poisoned by the Aspartame in the diet soda...and literally dying a slow and miserable death.
When she got to Florida March 22, all she had to take was one pill, and that was a pill for the Aspartame poisoning! She is well on her way to a complete recovery. And she is walking! No wheelchair! This article saved her life.
If it says 'SUGAR FREE' on the label; DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!
I have spent several days lecturing at the WORLD ENVIRONMENTAL CONFERENCE on "ASPARTAME," marketed as 'NutraSweet,' 'Equal,' and 'Spoonful.'
In the keynote address by the EPA, it was announced that in the United States in 2001 there is an epidemic of multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus. It was difficult to determine exactly what toxin was causing this to be rampant.
I stood up and said that I was there to lecture on exactly that subject. I will explain why Aspartame is so dangerous: When the temperature of this sweetener exceeds 86 degrees F, the wood alcohol in ASPARTAME converts to formaldehyde and then to formic acid, which in turn causes metabolic acidosis. Formic acid is the poison found in the sting of fire ants. The methanol toxicity mimics, among other conditions, multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus. Many people were being diagnosed in error. Although multiple sclerosis is not a death sentence, Methanol toxicity is!
Systemic lupus has become almost as rampant as multiple sclerosis, especially with Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi drinkers. The victim usually does not know that the Aspartame is the culprit. He or she continues its use; irritating the lupus to such a degree that it may become a life-threatening condition. We have seen patients with systemic lupus become asymptotic, once taken off diet sodas.
In cases of those diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, most of the symptoms disappear. We've seen many cases where vision loss returned and hearing loss improved markedly. This also applies to cases of tinnitus and fibromyalgia.
During a lecture, I said, "If you are using ASPARTAME (NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc) and you suffer from fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting, pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, joint pain, unexplainable depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred vision, or memory loss you probably have ASPARTAME poisoning!"
People were jumping up during the lecture saying, "I have some of these symptoms. Is it reversible?"
Yes! Yes! Yes! STOP drinking diet sodas and be alert for Aspartame on food labels! Many products are fortified with it! This is a serious problem.
Dr. Espart (one of my speakers) remarked that so many people seem to be symptomatic for MS and during his recent visit to a hospice, a nurse stated that six of her friends, who were heavy Diet Coke addicts, had all been diagnosed with MS. This is beyond coincidence!
Diet soda is NOT a diet product! It is a chemically altered, multiple SODIUM (salt) and ASPARTAME containing product that actually makes you crave carbohydrates. It is far more likely to make you GAIN weight!
These products also contain formaldehyde, which stores in the fat cells, particularly in the hips and thighs. Formaldehyde is an absolute toxin and is used primarily to preserve "tissue specimens." Many products we use every day contain this chemical but we SHOULD NOT store it IN our body!
Dr. H. J. Roberts stated in his lectures that once free of the "diet products" and with no significant increase in exercise; his patients lost an average of 19 pounds over a trial period.
Aspartame is especially dangerous for diabetics. We found that some physicians, who believed that they had a patient with retinopathy, in fact, had symptoms caused by Aspartame. The Aspartame drives the blood sugar out of control. Thus diabetics may suffer acute memory loss due to the fact that aspartic acid and phenylalanine are NEUROTOXIC when taken without the other amino acids necessary for a good balance. Treating diabetes is all about BALANCE. Especially with diabetics, the Aspartame passes the blood/brain barrier and it then deteriorates the neurons of the brain; causing various levels of brain damage, seizures, depression, manic depression, panic attacks, uncontrollable anger and rage.
Consumption of Aspartame causes these same symptoms in non-diabetics as well.
Documentation and observation also reveal that thousands of children diagnosed with ADD and ADHD have had complete turnarounds in their behaviour when these chemicals have been removed from their diet. So called "behaviour modification prescription drugs" (Ritalin and others) are no longer needed. Truth be told, they were never NEEDED in the first place! Most of these children were being "poisoned" on a daily basis with the very foods that were "better for them than sugar."
It is also suspected that the Aspartame in thousands of pallets of diet Coke and diet Pepsi consumed by men and women fighting in the Gulf War, may be partially to blame for the well-known Gulf War Syndrome.
Dr. Roberts warns that it can cause birth defects, i.e. mental retardation, if taken at the time of conception and during early pregnancy. Children are especially at risk for neurological disorders and should NEVER be given artificial sweeteners. There are many different case histories to relate of children suffering grand mal seizures and other neurological disturbances talking about a plague of neurological diseases directly caused by the use of this deadly poison."
Herein lies the problem:
There were Congressional Hearings when Aspartame was included 100 different products and strong objection was made concerning its use. Since this initial hearing, there have been two subsequent hearings, and still nothing has been done. The drug and chemical lobbies have very deep pockets.
Sadly, MONSANTO'S patent on Aspartame has EXPIRED! There are now over 5,000 products on the market that contain this deadly chemical and there will be thousands more introduced. Everybody wants a "piece of the Aspartame pie." I assure you that MONSANTO, the creator of Aspartame, knows how deadly it is.
And isn't it ironic that MONSANTO funds, among others, the American Diabetes Association, the American Dietetic Association and the Conference of the American College of Physicians?
This has been recently exposed in the New York Times.
These [organizations] cannot criticize any additives or convey their link to MONSANTO because they take money from the food industry and are required to endorse their products.
Senator Howard Metzenbaum wrote and presented a bill that would require label warnings on products containing Aspartame, especially regarding pregnant women, children and infants. The bill would also institute independent studies on the known dangers and the problems existing in the general population regarding seizures, changes in brain chemistry, neurological changes and behavioural symptoms. The bill was killed.
It is known that the powerful drug and chemical lobbies are responsible for this, letting loose the hounds of disease and death on an unsuspecting and uninformed public. Well, you're informed now! YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW!"
Recently we have a replacement for the blind dog who got lost when we forgot to close the gate one night.
This picture is a good example of what Lucky is capable of. Our first casualty was an old slipper of Beng which is really light and comfortable. Since then, he has gone through a number of my old shoes and one pair sandals which my wife forgot to put it away. Yet, despite countless complaints from me Lucky is here to stay. Efforts like taking him to the factory and bringing him back in the evening fizzled out especially very often she was in a hurry.
Lucky's aggressive barking has been a source of problems with schoolboys walking past our house. Boys will be boys and some even threw stones at him. The last straw was when I actually saw a student throwing our bag of rubbish like throwing discus into our compound and landed in front of our door! Since then I would scold each and every attempt. When questioned why, a student actually said because the dog was 'garang' (fierce). When I put the dogs at the back of the house, the students will provoke by imitating barking sounds and stamping their feet. I even complained to the Student Affairs teacher at SMK Sultan Yussuf to make an announcement to the students. My rising blood pressure as a result is of no concern to my wife. Living near a school is a definite disadvantage especially with the increasing indiscipline of students.
Incidentally, SYS is my wife's Alma Mater which just celebrated its 100th Anniversary. Our beloved Sultan is also an ex-student of the school which is named after his father. His frequent visits to Batu Gajah had seen prompt improvements to roads, especially the first flyover in Perak when he was Agong.
Monday, October 15, 2007
We are always amazed at the many ingenious ways to prevent car theft. This one looks simple and obvious but judging from the material and design to prevent scratching the car paintwork, it must be off the shelf.
Cheng just told us about how some bicycle thieves would lock the targeted bike with their own lock. This would likely force the owner to leave the bike overnight and the thief can come back later to cart it away and break owner's lock at his own leisure. It happened to her recently but she was lucky to have 3 friends to help her carry her bike to the shop to unlock the unwanted lock for 5 Euros.
Based on my new friend’s (boss of SGT biscuits) mantra that whichever way you come from, you cannot miss the ‘Leaning Tower’ square, I managed to find it first time!
My last visit was in a friend’s car (boss of a bread shop in BG) and in Teluk Intan, in SGT’s car, so I did not take note of the routes. At the time, SGT just confirmed the rental of the shop, which used to be occupied by Chicken King. He wanted second and third opinion (mine was accidental and unsolicited). While showing us the second floor, which was meant for BG friend’s consideration as a Hainanese chicken rice shop, he was so convinced that I learnt later that he decided he wanted it for himself!
I couldn’t wait to see his new shop in operation. I did not miss the big sign of his shopowner, ‘Siang Hoong’ while driving to find it. It was made easy as it was just in front of the ‘Leaning Tower’.
I recognised his wife as one of the ladies behind the counter, and went over to say hello and asked about business. Introduced my wife and we were offered bits of different varieties of biscuits to taste. Fresh from the oven at the back, the ‘heong paeng’ and other biscuits tasted really nice. Immediately, we bought a selection to take back.
Pictures of the opening ceremony showed Gerakan leaders like Chia Kwang Chye and local MP, Mah Siew Keong were there to officiate. No wonder when asked about Mah’s cousin, he said he knew him and that “Teluk Intan is very small, we know everybody”.
Beng is a good friend (ex-Sydney U) of Mah’s nephew, Ian, who has been to our place for dinner.
My wife wanted to know where is SGT’s biscuit factory and I could find it with just a wrong turn. I could also find the chicken rice stall on our way out to the town square and decided to have dinner there instead of Sitiawan, thinking we could buy some chicken necks for the dogs. It was drizzling. As we were eating, it rained heavily and I noticed a huge rat running towards my feet and reacted by lifting them to avoid contact. As it continued raining, we could see why the rats were scurrying about. The drains were flooded and the water slowly but surely creeping towards us. I suggested running to the car but wife vetoed as usual to most of my suggestions.
Just 15 minutes of heavy downpour and we were surrounded by a foot of dirty blackish water. A stallholder could easily catch a rat using the charcoal tongs. As we waited I looked around and could see a particular stall (not in operation) with more than 10 croaches avoiding the fast rising waters. I decided to act by running towards the car using the umbrella. Then I reversed the car to fetch my wife who rather walked barefooted wading through the waters.
Having seen this flash flood, I begin to wonder about our nation's priority. This part of town is just outside the famous 'Leaning tower' square and yet the dilapidated conditions of the stalls were appalling. How could this be tolerated for so long without action to redevelop it?
When we reached home, we headed straight to the back of our house and use some Dettol to wash our feet and then use it to wash my shoes.
'It was never my intention to boast or show off by building a bigger house which has been called 'Istana Datuk Zakaria' by some.
'My wife and I merely wanted a more comfortable dwelling for our 11 children, seven daughters - and sons-in-law as well as 11 grandchildren.'
Thursday, October 11, 2007
While we argue whether he is only a passenger or he can be called an astronaut, we cannot make out if a video is real or a fake. We cannot account for our government spending beyond reason and we cannot even ensure our bus drivers are healthy, competent and law-abiding. We cannot ensure our Election Commission carry out their duties impartially nor the Police safeguard us. We cannot ensure the universities are world class though the buildings are impressive.
It is like a family having a Ferrari and living in a grand house but the children are not well-educated and crass and probably suffering from mal-nutrition. But we need to impress others. So long as we can ‘kautim’ the electorate, Malaysia Boleh!
Taiwan celebrated its National Day with a big show of military hardware. To anyone, if it is for the purpose of fighting against mainland China, it will be the greatest tragedy of mankind. I hope the politicians will come to their senses and realise that both countries have been in existence separately for so long that any bloodshed for the purpose of putting right past wrongs will be meaningless.
Closer to home and reality, I got a call from wife to say “I am with Siew and her two children in Ipoh, so you better arrange for your own dinner.”
”Kita akan bina satu jambatan untuk orang-orang kampong disini.”
"Kalau takde sungai, kita bina sungai!"
(We are going to build a bridge for people living in this village. If there is no river, we will build one.)
"Toll naik sikit, manyak marah saya. You ingat semua ini toll saya punya bapa punya kah!" (Toll increases a bit, lots of anger. You think this toll is my father’s?)
Maybe not but someone thinks PLUS is acronymn for Pungut Lebih Untuk Samy, that's why.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
politics without principle;
pleasure without conscience;
wealth without work;
knowledge without character;
business without morality;
science without humanity;
and worship without sacrifice."
- Mahatma Gandhi
BELL 1 rings and we all put on our jackets,
BELL 2 rings and we all slide down the pole,
BELL 3 rings and we're on the fire truck ready to go."
"From now on when I say BELL 1 I want you to strip naked.
When I say BELL 2 I want you to jump in bed.
And when I say BELL 3 we are going to make love all night."
The next night he came home from work and yelled "BELL 1!" The wife promptly took all her clothes off.
When he yelled "BELL 2!", the wife jumped into bed.
When he yelled "BELL 3!", they began making love.
After a few minutes the wife yelled! "BELL 4 !"
"What the hell is BELL 4?" asked the husband?
"ROLL OUT MORE HOSE," she replied " YOU'RE NOWHERE NEAR THE FIRE."
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Alex got to know that his sister had given them permission to take the clock back, decided to go to the car boots sale with Beng. My wife got a shock when she saw the five clocks shown on Beng's website and got excited about the new acquisitions but was disappointed that only one belongs to her! However, she is happy that the one which Beng bought is another Smith with Westminster chime.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
desert. In a specific point of the journey, they had an
argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face.
The one, who got slapped, was hurt, but without anything
to say, he wrote in the sand: "TODAY, MY BEST FRIEND
SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE".
They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they
decided to take a bath. The one who got slapped and hurt
started drowning, and the other friend saved him. When he
recovered from the fright, he wrote on a stone: "TODAY MY
BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE".
The friend who saved and slapped his best friend, asked him,
"Why, after I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you
write on a stone?"
The other friend, smiling, replied: "When a friend hurts us,
we should write it down in the sand, where the winds of
forgiveness get in charge of erasing it away, and when
something great happens, we should engrave it in the stone
of the memory of the heart, where no wind can erase it"
Learn to write in the sand.
Friday, October 05, 2007
The examination was quite thorough, ending with the doctor’s tiny hammer with which he hit my elbows, knees and ankles. He pondered for a few seconds as he laid the hammer on his desk before saying softly and deliberately, “Young man, I realise what this job means to you. A promotion, a good future and better salary perhaps. But, you need an immediate and complete rest, away from your place of work. Your condition is quite serious. You do not need medicine to treat you. You merely need good rest, relaxation and an immediate change of environment. You should leave Ipoh and go back to Singapore as soon as possible.”
“How soon?” I asked.
“Tonight, if possible.”
I was taken aback to say the least. I asked him, rather nonchalantly, “Am I that serious, doctor?”
Dr. Khong did not mince his words (thank God for that). He added, again softly but deliberately “Yes, you are. You are on the verge of a mental breakdown. If you do not leave your work here and return to Singapore, there are only two things that can happen.”
“What were the two options?” “You can go mad or die,” Dr. Khong added.
I was stunned, speechless for a while. But, I recovered to ask him, “How soon do you advise I should go home?”
“Today, if possible.” It was astounding, if not shocking. I did not for one moment realise that I was in that state – on the verge of a mental breakdown. When he handed me a medical certificate in a sealed envelope for my office, I thanked the fatherly-imaged doctor profusely. The MC said just that – I was on the verge of a mental breakdown.”
(What was the cause of it?)
Sometime in late October 1936, I was picked by my employer, Straits Times, to go to Ipoh along with another colleague, a Mr. John Duke, to reorganize and revamp a daily English-language newspaper, Times of Malaya.
I was to learn much later, while in Ipoh, that rumours in the grapevine had been circulating that we were there to throw out the old staff and hire new, younger and better-educted locals to replace the older employees. I had no inkling of that at all. If that was the strategy and directive it could have been given to Mr. John Duke. I was not privy to it.
We worked very hard and zealously immediately on arrival in Ipoh, but I found numerous big and small obstacles in the various administrative departments, outside the editorial section. I was not afraid of hard work and long hours, but being stifled and running into roadblocks all the time in the office took a gradual toll on my nerves, without my knowledge.
(Seems quite common problems faced by the average employee. Recently, I was told a niece who is a qualified CPA, trained in Arthur Andersen and later joined a public listed company left it because she was overworked, including having to do subordinates’ work and the last straw was no bonus. She was off work for 2-3 months before getting another job and the parents just got at her for having left a good job!
I always believe we should follow our own instinct and do what we can and not what others expect us to).
I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that that lit up her entire being.
She said, "Hi, handsome. My name is Rose. I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?" I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze.
"Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.
She jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, have a couple of children, and then retire and travel."
"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.
"I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!" she told me.
After class we walked to the student union building and share a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk non-stop. I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.
Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she revelled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.
At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, "I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."
As we laughed she cleared her throat and began: "We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. "You have to laugh and find humour every day. You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it!"
"There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change."
"Have no regrets. The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets."
She concluded her speech by courageously singing The Rose. She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives. At the years end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago.
One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.
Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.
Remember, GROWING OLDER IS MANDATORY, GROWING UP IS OPTIONAL.