How should we judge a government?

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

"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

Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience - Mark Twain

Never argue with an idiot, otherwise people won't know which one of you is the idiot.
Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright - until you hear them speak.

Why we should be against censorship in a court of law: Publicity is the very soul of justice … it keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial. - Jeremy Bentham

"Our government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no
responsibility at the other. " - Ronald Reagan

Government fed by the people

Government fed by the people

Career options

Career options
I suggest government... because nobody has ever been caught.

Corruption so prevalent it affects English language?

Corruption so prevalent it affects English language?

When there's too much dirt...

When there's too much dirt...
We need better tools... to cover up mega corruptions.

Prevent bullying now!

Prevent bullying now!
If you're not going to speak up, how is the world supposed to know you exist? “Orang boleh pandai setinggi langit, tapi selama ia tidak menulis, ia akan hilang di dalam masyarakat dan dari sejarah.” - Ananta Prameodya Toer (Your intellect may soar to the sky but if you do not write, you will be lost from society and to history.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

We are quarrelsome... not fighters

Friday, July 25, 2014

Answering machine every modern school should have

This is the message that the Maroochydore High School, Queensland, Australia, staff voted unanimously to record on their school telephone answering machine. This is the actual answering machine message for the school.
This came about because they implemented a policy requiring students and parents to be responsible for their children's absences and missing homework.
The school and teachers are being sued by parents who want their children's failing grades changed  to passing grades - even though those children were absent 15-30 times during the semester and did not complete enough.
This is an actual message at a school in Australia.






Transcript:

Hello, you have reached the automated answering service of your school
In order to assist you in connecting you to the right staff member, Please listen to all the options before making a selection
To lie about why your child is absent Press 1
To make excuses for why your child did not do his homework Press 2
To complain about what we do Press 3
To swear at staff members Press 4
To ask why you didn't get information, that has already been enclosed in your newsletter and several fliers that have been mailed to you Press 5
If you want us to raise your child Press 6
If you want to reach out and touch, slap, or hit someone Press 7
To request another teacher, for the third time this year Press 8
To complain about bus transportation Press 9
To complain about school lunches Press 0
If you realize this is the real world and your child must be accountable and responsible for his or her behavior, classwork, and homework. And it's not the teacher's fault for your child's lack of effort, Please hang up and have a nice day.
If you want this in another language Move to a country that speaks it.
Thank you for your interest in public education.

Link

Thursday, July 24, 2014

CIMB-RHB-MBSB Merger - a prelude to taking over Public Bank?

The song 'He ain't heavy... he's my brother...' comes to mind, even if its original meaning in the lyrics bears no semblance to this topic on banks in Malaysia.

Our PM's brother, Nazir has come a long way since gaining control of CIMB, after a merger with Bumiputra Commerce, which saw the latter losing its identity. Soon, there was an 'enforced' takeover of Southern Bank. How could it not be enforced when Bank Negara sided him which made it impossible to consider other suitors! Initially, there were reports that Lim Goh Tong's daughter (wife of Southern Bank's CEO) wanted to fight off the takeover. But even if we leave out political connections, despite having financial capacity to put up a fight, I think they were reminded where Uncle Lim made his pile in the first place.

There was no doubt CIMB had grown much under Nazir, but how much was due to his ability and how much due to his PM brother's clout seems pretty obvious. Most of the mega mergers (probably initiated by CIMB) were handled by CIMB.

Just before the latest proposed merger, Nazir resigned as CEO of CIMB to become Chairman, and was appointed a director of Khazanah! How convenient indeed to help facilitate the merger. That he said the deal won't go through if there was risk seems meaningless under the circumstances.

Anyway, Financetwitter.com has a wonderful story on our banks...

CIMB-RHB-MBSB Mega Merger – The Danger Of Creating A "Too-Big-To-Fail" Biggest Bank

Excerpt:

'But why the needs to create such a mega-merger now? It was not like either CIMB, RHB or MBSB were in bad shape that they need a bail-out. Considering Malaysia’s population of merely 30 million, how small is the number of banks that can be considered strong and healthy? The country had merged its 54 banks prior to 1997-1998 Financial Crisis to the present 9 banks. Is this not an ideal figure?
Surely it wasn’t done in the interest of the minority shareholders. The fact that Bank Negara (Central Bank) gave the three financial institutions approval in less than 24 hours after they wrote to it is a sure sign that it is in favour of the merger. But the fact that the authority agrees to the 90-day exclusive clause agreement also shows that minority shareholders are not getting any better deal from other interested parties.

The lame excuses given – RHB is not being sold and to minimize disruptions. Was this a pre-planned move to fulfill PM Najib’s dream to install his brother as the supremo of the largest bank in the country? Or was it to simply fulfill Bank Negara governor Zeti’s ego to establish a mega Islamic bank with a capitalization of US$1 billion (RM3.2 billion) as her trademark, before her contract expires in 2016?

Coincidently, Public Bank surprised the market when it proposed a RM5 billion rights issue 2-months ago, deliberately “over capitalising” it in terms of its capital requirements for Basel III. With paid up capital of over 3.88 billion shares, market capitalization of RM77.95 billion, price-to-book valuation of 3.4 times, Public Bank is now the most expensive bank to be acquired.

So, did 84-year-old Teh Hong Piow, who owns 24.08% of Public Bank, actually knew something was cooking in CIMB, so much so that he didn’t blink his eyes about pumping RM1.2 billion of his own money for the rights issue exercise? Did CIMB plans to acquire Public Bank instead in the first place? Perhaps it was both – to acquire RHB and MBSB, together with Public Bank. If it’s true, then Teh Hong Piow has save the bank he founded some 48 years ago from a “force merger”, at least for now.
One has to remember that CIMB was the result of a merger between CIMB, Bumiputra-Commerce Bank and Southern Bank Bhd in 2006. But the merger was infamous due to its hostile nature – the “very successful” Southern Bank’s Tan Teong Hean was “forced” to sell it to Nazir Razak, the same brother of the then Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak. Tan Teong Hean was simply no match for Nazir Razak’s strong political connections.'

'Beside ignoring the interest of minority shareholders, there’s another risk for creating the biggest bank from such a merger. Taking the cue from United States’ 2008′s subprime crisis, a merged CIMB-RHB-MBSB will enjoys “too-big-to-fail” advantage. Just like Federal Reserve, Bank Negara and the Malaysian government would need to bail out this giant should it fails at a later stage. What that means is taxpayers’ money will again be used to bail out the “New CIMB” bank.

There’s also the problem of eliminating redundant branches and employees after the merger, not to mention the losing of competitiveness among banks to serve small businesses and individuals better. The new CIMB will become an arrogant animal which will care for nothing but its bottom line. And it can afford to do so, because the government would be at its mercy since the giant is Too-Big-To-Fail.'

More:
Link

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ipoh Echo: Indiscretion in Kiwiland

Ipoh Echo's Editorial By Fathol Zaman Bukhari helps to dispel some misconceptions about Rizalman.

Highlights:

'I was appalled when the Ministry of Defence announced that Rizalman would be court-martialled instead. How could he be tried in a military court when the offence was committed abroad with the principal witness a native of New Zealand? It certainly does not make sense. On second thought, does anything in the country make sense anymore?

Rizalman’s extradition to New Zealand, meanwhile, has been put on hold as the military authorities are not satisfied with his mental well-being. Frankly speaking, does an alleged felon require that much assurance?'

'Rizalman is a non-commissioned officer (NCO) with the rank of a Warrant Officer Class Two or WO 2, in short. Not a second warrant officer, as is widely reported in the news media. There are two categories of warrant officers – WO 1 and WO 2. These are the highest achievable ranks for enlisted men in the armed forces – army, navy and air force. Below them are the lance corporals, corporals, sergeants and staff sergeants.'

'Rizalman is not a military attaché and neither is he a diplomat. He is simply a staff of the military attaché, someone who is at the beck and call of the colonel (rank of military attaché) and does his bidding like all good soldiers do.

The criteria for selection for an overseas posting are not as stringent as they were before. In  those days, one’s fluency in the English language was a must. Today with many having a poor command of English, officers included, a grasp of the language is considered sufficient. That is how low we have come over the decades.

Those picked for an overseas posting undergo a short orientation course in Port Dickson or at Wisma Putra (Foreign Ministry). And the lessons, mind you, include dining etiquette, conversational skills, social mannerism and taboos.

Preference normally goes to NCOs from the Intelligence Corps since the job of service attachés, the world over, is mainly to snoop on the military of the host country. I did my share of discreet snooping when attending courses and field exercises in Indonesia, Australia and the United States of America.  

When Rizalman’s impropriety hit the headlines on Monday, June 30 after New Zealand Prime Minister John Kay broke his silence on the alleged sexual assault, Rizalman and his family were already in Kuala Lumpur.'

Rest of editorial:
http://www.ipohecho.com.my/v3/article/2014/07/16/indiscretion-in-kiwiland
Link

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chris Higgins: How spies cracked the Malaysia Airlines MH17 missile mystery

Excerpt:

'The US Air Force's Defense Support Program (DSP) operates a web of satellites positioned around the Earth that act as an early warning system for weapons launches, including intercontinental ballistic missiles and spacecraft. Using infrared cameras, they are capable of detecting even smaller heat signatures -- such as launch blasts and booster plumes -- proving their usefulness in the first Iraq invasion, detecting the launches of Scud missiles and providing evacuation warnings to civilian and military targets alike. These satellites form part of the larger field of Measurements and Signals Intelligence service (MASINT) operated by many national military and spy agencies, including the US Department of Defence.

Detecting the launch of a missile is as simple as watching for a white spot on an aerial shot, then tracking the missile's trajectory back to its launchpad. This, in theory, would make it easy to discover the weapon used. However, infra-red sensors are not the same as the high-resolution cameras that provide us with a detailed view of our own home on Google Earth, and without additional surveillance satellites trained on the area at the right time, that information would be lost. That is, without some lateral thinking, a practice the intelligence industry excels in.'

'The cruising altitude of MH17 was last recorded at 33,000ft (10,000m). Most man-portable air defence (or MANPAD) systems have an engagement range of around 20,000ft (6,000m), ruling out a small, one-man launch and a whole litany of "dumbfire" rockets. Alternatives are narrowed down to smarter, radar-guided missiles or an air-to-air engagement. Since flight radar picked up no combat jets in the area, the only remaining theory is a medium-to-long-range SAM with radar guidance. This allows MASINT analysts to narrow their searches based on how these systems work.'

'Before a missile is launched, a strong radar beacon would be used to acquire the target. After a "lock on", the payload is sent on a rough trajectory to cross the path of the target. But during flight, a radar on the missile itself would need to begin transmitting in order to reacquire the target and adjust flight course. These "pulses" can be specific to certain models of missile, and certain missiles are specific to launch vehicles. By detecting the radar signature of the missile, MASINT can compare it to known frequencies, as well as other variables -- such as speed of the missile -- and identify the weapon.'

'In the case of MH17, this appears to have been a Soviet-made BUK-M2. The BUK launches missiles that travel at speeds of up to 3 mach (1,000 metres per second)*, easily capable of catching a commercial passenger jet travelling at 800 kilometres per hour. The BUK is used extensively on both sides of the border, and were responsible for the downing of 4 aircraft during the 2008 conflict in South Ossetia, Georgia.'

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-07/18/mh17-missile-detection/viewgallery/336884

(* 3,600 kilometres per hour, according to my amateurish calculation)

Link

MH 17: Some common misconceptions

At coffee shops, the differences in the level of information can range from well informed (with internet access and use) to the ignorant or people who do not care what's happening around their daily lives.

The tragic MH17 MAS aeroplane which was shot by surface-to-air missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers (including crew members) and the subsequent news reports were generally accurate without much room for speculation, unlike the still missing MH370 which happened over four months ago.

Despite the little room for speculation, a friend could not get over why MH17 had to fly over war-striven Ukraine, simply because his idea of former USSR, which we used to refer to as Russia as if they were one and the same (how wrong could that be) and which Ukraine used to be a part of. The following map helps to dispel my friend's misconception:



The other main misconception was the description that MH17 was flying 1000 ft above restricted airspace. Many imagine the plane was flying so low - only 1000 ft. above ground level!

Downed Malaysia Airlines plane: how did it go wrong for flight MH17?

All flights now barred from eastern Ukraine, where airliner was downed while reportedly flying 1,000ft above restricted airspace

Airlines flight MH17 was flying just 1,000 feet (300 metres) above restricted airspace when it was shot down, according to the European air traffic control body.

Eurocontrol said Ukrainian authorities had barred aircraft from ground level to 32,000 feet but the doomed aircraft was cruising at 33,000 feet, still within range of sophisticated ground-to-air weaponry, when it was hit. All flights in eastern Ukraine have now been barred from the area, Eurocontrol added.

"The aircraft was flying at Flight Level 330 [approximately 10,000 metres/33,000 ft] when it disappeared from the radar," said. "This route had been closed by the Ukrainian authorities from ground to flight level 320 [32,000ft] but was open at the level at which the aircraft was flying."

It also emerged that as recently as a month ago British airlines were given the all-clear to overfly the area where flight MH17 was downed, after being told that operations were "normal" in the region.

A notice posted by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on 14 June urged carriers to avoid overflying Crimea and parts of southern Ukraine a month ago due to safety concerns, but they were not ordered to avoid the rest of the country.

More:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/17/malaysia-airlines-mh17-flying-just-above-restricted-airspace?CMP=fb_gu

The saddest and most unfortunate fact was that the plane was shot down very close to the eastern border of Ukraine (so near yet so far). In other words, it could have just made it.

UN aviation body (ICAO) had made a statement that it does not have the power to open or shut routes. This was in an apparent correction to Transport Minister Liow's reliance on ICAO's clearance that it was a safe route for commercial flights. Surely, no organisation can provide such a guarantee where safety is concerned, more so, over a war-torn country. It carries an inherent disclaimer which is why some airlines avoid the route despite such assurance. To me, it is just like a parent telling a child that it is ok to go out, but when something happened, the other parent blamed it on the former for allowing it.

Link

Friday, July 18, 2014

MH17 - too close for comfort

I had been to KLIA a number of times to receive Cheng coming back from Amsterdam. So MH17 is a familiar flight number to me. I was reluctant to write about this tragic flight because it was too close for comfort, until I noticed my post on Dec 29, 2012 about MH17's early time of arrival (by over an hour) had been visited, presumably by some searching for news on the flight by its number MH17.

Once, I forgot about a change in date of flight by one day and I took the details of the outdated flight details with me to KLIA. Imagine my anxiety waiting for over an hour without any sign of Cheng! Even after checking with airport info, it wasn't apparent of the wrong date and was told it had landed. My imagination ran wild, even thinking that she was abducted just outside the airport lounge! Anyway, it was a great relief that I found out about my mistake.

Now, I make it a point to call KLIA to find out if the expected flight was on schedule. Once, I saved a journey to the airport because Cheng got her friends' date of arrival mistaken.

When MH370 was found to be missing, for many hours, it was shown at Beijing airport as 'Delayed'. Now it had been months since, but we have yet to recover any evidence of where it had crashed.

My heartfelt condolences to the families of those affected by MH370 and now MH17.
Link

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why I think the CM of Penang should let the authenticity of Penang street hawkers' foods take its natural course

I wish to refer to Chief Minister of Penang's letter to Malaysiakini: Feedback sought on foreign hawker cooks ban

Excerpt:

'Penang aspires to have our own unique and special identity. We do not want to be a carbon copy of Seoul, Hong Kong or Singapore.'
'Penang can stand out and be different. Our principal key asset that makes Penang different and attractive is our street food, rated by many as the best in the world. My conversation with the Hong Kong tourism industry reaffirmed the important role played by street food or hawker fare as the essential ingredient that defines Penang and is our top draw for tourists.
Penang’s famous street food not only separates the flavor of Penang from other tourist destinations but also infuses life and spirit into our cultural diversity and multi-ethnic heritage. For this reason, we must retain the quality and the unique flavor of Penang food cooked by locals.'
'To protect, preserve and promote our top attraction of hawker food, the Penang state government is inviting public feedback on whether banning foreigners from cooking at hawker stalls can ensure that our favourite hawker food remains the same and retains the unique penang flavour.
This proposed prohibition only applies to foreigners and not Malaysians and only to hawker stalls and not restaurants. Such proposed prohibition is also consistent with the legal rule that hawker stall licences can only be given to Malaysian citizens and not foreigners.
The proposed prohibition does not apply to those foreign workers who help in serving customers or washing up. It seeks only to bar foreigners from cooking at local hawker stalls.'
'...an initiative to prevent our unique Penang flavours from “mutating” to a foreign taste if foreign workers are allowed to cook at hawker stalls.'

More: http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/268729

From what I have observed, many of our government's initiatives failed or did not match up to expectations, because government leaders or officials do not know how the businesses will be affected by their policies, especially where there was no provision for feedback from those affected as well as the public.

Even small businesses have their own problems which are best solved by the operators themselves. Government policies set rules and those affected are left to their own devices, especially when dealing with their daily problems.

How many of our traditional hawkers could say honestly that they wish to have their own children take over their businesses?

Many of them wish that their children could do well in their studies so that they do not have to follow in their footsteps and take over their family trades. Many wish their children could be university graduates or possess professional qualifications so that they could improve on their current unenviable social status.

But of course, there are exceptionally successful hawker businesses which earnings could put even professionals to shame. They become successful through trial and error in the choice of location, menu and favourable response from their customers.

It is only recently that we have come across university graduates and professionals trying their hands at hawker businesses, but usually with an upgrade in interior decoration and tasteful ambience which inevitably comes with higher prices. Some may succeed while others may fail, the latter mainly because the local customers are unprepared to pay higher prices for the same types of food.

When we look at the reviews by journalists, food connoisseurs or food bloggers,  there is one or more places well known for certain foods. It is common to list the 10 best places for a certain food, like Hokien Mee, for example. The list is expected to vary from reviewer to reviewer and subject to change as a result of change in preparation due to various reasons (retired or given up because of difficulty in getting helpers or even to look after grandchildren!); different reviewers chose different places and list them according to their tastes (which is subjective in itself); and so on.

Just imagine how fluid the businesses are in even without any interference from the government.

Imagine the government banned foreign cooks in hawker stalls.

Why is there a dependency on foreign workers in recent years? Without getting involved in other business sectors, I can imagine foreign workers are used because of various reasons: lack of family members to help out because of children's further studies or wife having to look after grandchildren, and so on. The hawker himself could be less efficient because of age and he has to delegate most of the menial tasks to his foreign workers.

In the case of Hokien mee, the most important factor which affects its taste seems to be the soup, followed by the ingredients. As long as the original hawker maintains his well accepted recipe, it does not matter who does the preparation. So what is the big deal about whether a Penangite should be doing everything up to the serving of the dish?

The proof is in the eating and I don't think the customers bother, as long as it is good, whether it was prepared and served by authentic Penang lang. Are we concerned about having conversation between hawker and customer? During busy hours, there is no time for chit chat between them, and as to foreigners, they can't tell the difference anyway.

In my humble opinion, when the going gets tough, only the tough gets going. Every hawker and his dish will have its loyal customers who think he is the best; every reviewer will have his or her  'Ten best list'; and the competition is a continual process involving hawkers, customers and reviewers. Why must we have rules which need to be properly enforced (to justify the rules) and which can only make things more difficult for the hawkers? They have to start early in their preparation and to get the jobs done, any help from just about anybody is welcome. Why complicate it by insisting that the food be seen to be prepared only by Penangite?

Link

Penang's new second bridge seems like a bridge of no return

It was a straight forward drive using the new bridge to get to the newly upgraded Penang Airport, though it seemed like going through a stretch of unseemly roads through the quiet industrial estate (on a Sunday) in Bayan Lepas.

We were almost 2 hours too early (Cheng having checked in online) when we reached the airport at 4.00 pm, and she wanted to buy some Penang biscuits for her colleagues in ILO in Bangkok. Initially, wanted to go to Georgetown to get those, but didn't want to get caught in traffic jam. Then we thought of Sunshine Square in Bukit Jambul but ended up in Relau instead! Saw a stall selling durians, mangosteens and rambutans and we decided to stop and eat because Cheng had been lamenting about the poor taste of Thai durians. Tried to look for Tambun biscuits in convenience store and an Indian customer advised to try the cake shop nearby. But as expected, they do not sell those except their own cakes. We decided that surely we can find them in Penang airport.

We had not been to the newly upgraded airport since many years ago, when Cheng as a young student, was so excited when she spotted Lim Kit Siang at the old one. This time, I joked that we might find him again since his son is now CM of Penang. We actually found a shop called Penang Delights, selling local biscuits. Just before paying, Cheng showed me the address shown on the box and it was actually made in Taiping, Perak Darul Ridzuan! Anyway, on my way to the toilet, and who I saw but CM, YAB Lim Guan Eng! I tried looking for the likely place where he came from, and I presumed, he just came out of the VIP Lounge, probably having just sent off somebody (LKS? I wonder).

After making sure Cheng's flight was shown on the Departure board, we decided to leave. We were expecting BK's family in Batu Gajah, after their holiday in Camerons.

After a short drive from airport carpark, we reached the partial roundabout and decided to take the road straight ahead, where we came from (Relau) an hour ago. To turn left, was to Batu Maung, which later we were to regret for not trying it. We realised the Relau way wasn't the way we came from the new bridge, and we tried the last option. We were quite happy, when we found some familiar names along the way, thinking we were right at retracing the route back to the bridge. But it was incredible that there was not a single sign to the new bridge and we were led on to the road leading to the old bridge!

So it was, on our first time using the new bridge to get to the airport and happy with the savings in travelling distance and time, we felt a sense of failure for not being able to retrace our way back! Since we were already near the road leading to the old bridge, we decided to take the old route back. This must have been the worst case of sign-posting on our local roads and I hope the relevant authorities would ensure proper signs at the right places be erected.

Link

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What a way for Cheng to celebrate her birthday!

Cheng and her mum took the slow train (poor man's Oriental Express) from Bangkok to Butterworth (a 24-hour journey) on the eve of her birthday, arriving on the day of her birthday! The day-long journey comprised 22 hours in Thailand and 2 hours in Malaysia.  I was informed when they boarded, and later, when they crossed the border at Padang Besar.

As it turned out, it was also the last day of her 3-month Thai visa which will be renewed when she flies back, to complete her internship with ILO.

I was originally told to fetch them from Butterworth KTM station (with rough directions given), instead of waiting for the coach from B'worth to Ipoh, to save time. I had been to MMC (formerly Datuk Keramat Tin Smelting) a few times before, when escorting tin consignments there, but as usual, after a number of years, only have vague memory of the routes.

I set off from Taman Perdana (after breakfast with my usual kakis) at 11 am and it took half an hour to reach the Plus NSE toll booth at Jelapang. Got a call just before but could not communicate because of poor reception at the other end, when they crossed the border. Travelling at my usual law-abiding speed, it took me another one and a half hours to reach Butterworth. As is typical with our road signs, I had to ask at a petrol station how to get to KTM station. After paying the local toll, I looked for signs to the railway station but there was none and ended up at a container terminal! Asked the policeman on duty and was given proper directions 'turn left, then left again', but again, there was no reassuring sign directing to the station. I parked at what looked like an abandoned site and found that the low building with a cafeteria (half of it flooded) is actually the temporary station while the new one is being built! There were excavators doing some earthworks nearby and it was only when I asked the money-changer cum newsagent that I knew about where to look for passengers arriving.

I was at least half an hour too early and started reading notices on the walls. There were Visit Malaysia ones from Tourism Ministry with maps which even a local like myself find it hard to follow. When I compared a Bahasa notice and an English one by KTM, I found 'Dear our valued customer...' a bit amusing.

Anyway, upon arrival, both of them wanted to use the toilet before continuing the journey with me. Even before that, I got a call asking me to look for any good Laksa, but I was more engrossed with looking for the way to the station. Anyway, we took a drive and found most shops closed because it was a public holiday in Penang. The first question was asking whether it is ok to go straight to Cameron Highlands because my son and family are staying the night there and it would be a pity if we just go back to BG and Cheng would miss meeting them on this short trip. Considering it was Cheng's birthday and SP had been away for 3 weeks, missing her grandson, we decided to do so. Poor me, having driven from BG to B'worth, then back to Simpang Pulai, Ipoh and take the Pos Slim route to Cameron Highlands and then back after dinner!

We met them at the playground at Strawberry Park Resort and then adjourned to Smokehouse for dinner (amid my usual protest) but if they insist, I shouldn't be a spoil sport. We did not have reservation but realised there was a guard making sure only patrons are allowed in. I can understand this because there are many visitors wanting to take pictures without patronising and security can be a problem, especially with the expensive foreign antiques on display.

Once inside, SP noticed a few Dutch items and the Captain of the restaurant gave descriptions of some of them. She told him Cheng lived in Holland for a number of years and that both of them are familiar with those. He had been most friendly, especially with our little one, teaching him 'hi 5' and a few other hand gestures. We tried to get Shane to sing happy birthday to his aunt and it was later when we finished our meal that we realised they had whipped up a meringue cake for us to celebrate! So thoughtful of them.

flambe bombe Alaska

Cheng lamented that for the past few years when she was in Holland, her birthdays were not properly celebrated because of summer holidays when most friends were away. So this last minute arrangement to meet up in Camerons plus the kind gesture from Smokehouse restaurant made it a nice family celebration (with the exception of CY who is now working in Dubai). It also brought back memories to Cheng of when she stayed there a night with her Japanese host family, the Fujiokas, when they were on a visit some ten years ago.
Link

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Freudian slip of an answer to an inappropriate question

LOOKING FOR A JEWISH BRIDE

THE JEWISH SHIDUCH (ARRANGED MARRIAGE)

A good Hassidic family is most concerned that their 30-year-old son is unmarried.

So, they call a marriage broker and ask him to find their son a good wife.

The broker comes over to their house and spends a long time asking questions of the son and his parents as to what they want in a wife/daughter-in-law.

They give him a long shopping list of requirements.

The marriage broker takes a long time looking and finally asks to visit the family again.

He then tells them of a wonderful woman he has found.

He says she's just the right age for the son.

She keeps a Glatt Kosher home, she regularly attends synagogue and knows the prayers by heart and she’s a wonderful cook.

She loves children and wants a large family.

And to crown it all off, she's gorgeous.

After hearing all this, the family is very impressed and begins to get excited about the prospects of a wedding in the near future.

But the son pauses and asks inappropriately, 'Is she also good in bed?'

The marriage broker answers, 'Some say yes, some say no....'
Link

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Confirmed: some supermarket cashiers cannot count

Within a few months, I had the experience of buying 3 cartons of Tesco fresh milk in Kampar and charged for only 2, and buying 3 cartons of Just Juice (pineapple) at Aeon Station 18 and charged for 4!

On both occasions, I was in a hurry and only one item was purchased. I suppose cashiers rely too much on their machines instead of own eyes and brain. Once, in a Chinese restaurant in Menglembu, a mistake (understated) was easily spotted by the lady boss.

Last Saturday, I missed lunch again and at 2.30pm, decided to go to Aeon Station 18 in Ipoh. It wasn't my day. After closing the gate, I spotted a tyre puncture. The car was already under the hot sun and I was reluctant to move it to a shady area for fear of damaging the tyre. I had to take a break twice: to avoid the hot sun as well as to take it easy because I found it tough now (old, unlike before). Had it been our 4WD, I would have had to call the tyre man. I had to prove that I can still change a tyre of a small car.

Since I had in mind to buy only pineapple juice from Aeon (Just Juice from Indonesia  is only Rm5.50 compared to over Rm7.00 for an American brand in Tesco), I parked my car outside Aeon. Without a basket, I carried the 3 cartons to the cash counter. Maybe, I was in a hurry and partly, after changing tyre and already hungry, I wasn't paying attention to what the cashier said. Handed to her a Rm50 note and took the change without checking, and then realised it was a Saturday (no plastic bag day),  and I had to do without. Went over to buy 2 small pizzas, and just about manage to carry them without a bag! I can still remember seeing an Indian security woman eyeing me with suspicion. In retrospect, had she checked me, I would have discovered there and then, the mistake of being overcharged by a carton!

Anyway, it was only when I reached home and looked at the receipt that I found the mistake. Actually, I did not expect a refund, since I was already back home. But I felt I need to point out the mistake (due to whatever reason), so that Aeon management will know about it. I called up their call centre at 1300 80 2366 to inform them. Tuesday evening, got a call from Aeon asking me if I had received a call from Aeon St 18 and was told the report no. to check with them. When asked the chance of getting a refund as I would not bother since I cannot prove anything other than the receipt, she replied, 'very high' since I have the receipt. I would tend to believe her since Aeon is a reputable company and nobody in his right mind would complain if not wrongly charged.

Another reason why I bothered is because as an old man, within months, I encountered 2 mistakes by supermarket cashiers. 'Why me?' or 'Is it me or something else which caused such mistakes. Maybe I look senile. In other words, in our daily transactions, we have to be mindful and not accept everything without some mental checks. Maybe, ignorance is truly bliss!

Update: Just got back from Aeon Station 18 and the refund was not as straightforward as I had expected. There was no one at the Customer Service side and the lone lady in charge of membership tried to contact somebody to deal with me.  After going through a few staff members who hadn't a clue what to do, finally the Manager came along. I explained and in the process, when someone mentioned checking the CCTV, I actually agreed that they should take their time to view it at the time stated in the receipt! Anyway, I was given the choice of refund or buying something else and pay for any shortfall, but I opted for having a carton of juice to make it up, just to simplify the matter. In fact, if the Point of Sale system (or any other similar system) is working satisfactorily, there should be one extra carton of juice on the shelf!

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Some of the reasons why our government is low on credibility

Public statements by government ministers are often contradictory and it is common to read of retraction of earlier statement or U-turn, or allegation that the statement had been misquoted.

The disappearance of MH370 which has yet to be found could have only worsened the already low credibility, even though whose fault it was has yet to be ascertained.

The recall of a Malaysian diplomat from New Zealand, who faced charges for burglary and sexual assault, had shown how our Foreign Ministry had tried to cover up the case, even though it was partially the fault of their NZ counterparts for failing to stop the recall. But then again, our Foreign Minister appeared to have lied about the option given by NZ when letters prove our attempt at asking them to close the case. Now, even whether the diplomat will be extradited is put into question because of some obvious delaying tactics like 'after Ramadan' or could be medically unfit to travel!

The public are often sceptical about ministerial statements and denials, due mainly to past incidents of lack of transparency and responsibility. Can we be blamed if our government had not been truthful time and again, before?

If I had any doubt about government's meddling, the following article in The Malaysian Insider removes it:

I was pressured over UM research centre’s work, says former VC 

' former Universiti Malaya (UM) vice-chancellor has revealed that he was constantly harassed by Putrajaya over the unflattering findings by the university’s research centre, lending weight to claims that the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition was unhappy with its work.'

- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/i-was-pressured-over-um-research-centres-work-says-former-vc#sthash.VTt5qf3M.dpuf



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A lesson on apology: 'Sorry' seems the hardest word for some




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Saturday, July 05, 2014

When headlines do not make sense, heads must roll?

I wish there are rewards for spotting mistakes in the newspapers we read because mistakes can be found easily. This could be due to a drop in standard of English, in proof-reading and/or editing.

I must admit I have my own blind spots which only others could spot easily, but I expect a much higher standard of care in publications. Often, I spot and amend mistakes in my blog posts because those mistakes could not get past my mental checks, sometimes days later.

I have some selected headlines with comments (from my mail box, not from our local papers; mistakes in local papers are too numerous to list, unless there is some reward for doing so!), which are funny or senseless. Not all are mistakes, some could be deliberate to catch the attention of readers...

Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter  
'This one I caught in the SGV Tribune the other day and called the Editorial Room and asked who wrote this. It took two or three readings before the editor realized that what he was reading was impossible!!! They put in a correction the next day.'

'I just couldn't help but sending this along. Too funny.'  
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says  
'really? Ya think?'

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers   
'Now that's taking things a bit far!'

Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over    
'What a guy!'    

Miners Refuse to Work after Death  
'No-good-for-nothing' lazy so-and-so's!'

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant    
'See if that works any better than a fair trial!'

War Dims Hope for Peace   
'I can see where it might have that effect!'

If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile 
'Is that so!'
 
Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures   
'Who would have thought!'

Enfield (London) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide     
'They may be on to something!'

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges   
'You mean there's something stronger than duct tape?'

Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge    
'He probably IS the battery charge!'

New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group   
'Weren't they fat enough?!'

Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft   
'That's what he gets for eating those beans!'

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks   
'Do they taste like chicken?'

Local  High School Dropouts Cut in Half   
'Chainsaw massacre all over again!'

Hospitals are sued by 7 Foot Doctors   
'Boy, are they tall!'

And the winner is...
 
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead   
'Did I read that right?'

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Friday, July 04, 2014

A Cherokee legend, a once well kept secret...

Do you know the legend of the Cherokee Indian youths' Rite of Passage?

His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone.

He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone.


Once he survives the night, he is a MAN.

He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own. (Sorry, with the internet in this day and age, there is no more secret)

The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises.
Wild beasts must surely be all around him.
Maybe even some human might do him harm.
The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold.
It would be the only way he could become a man!

Finally, after a horrific night the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold.
It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him.
He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.
We, too, are never alone. Even when we don't know it, God is watching over us, sitting on the stump beside us.

Moral of the story:

Just because you can't see God, Doesn't mean He is not there.
"For we walk by faith, not by sight."

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Of selfies and being selfish

I googled 'selfies' and I got the following:

Wikipedia: 'A selfie is a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone. Selfies are often shared on social networking services ...';
'Forget selfies - make way for 'dronies';
'World Cup of Selfies: From Neymar to Merkel';
'Images for Selfies' which include this:

But sometimes, while taking pictures in general, we are caught in a dilemma when faced with situations like these:



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A story for the high and mighty

Many people read with incredulity the news headlines, such as 'Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor has once again come under widespread criticism for asking soup kitchens providing food for the homeless to move out from a 2km radius of the city centre by Monday' in Malaysiakini.

Here we have a FT Minister trying to 'clean up' the image of KL by banning the poor and homeless lining up for free food provided by some good Samaritans. Beggars and givers will be fined too.

I was amazed by the timing: in the holy month of Ramadan, and just when the key person in Kechara had just been voted one of the most prominent philanthropists. I wonder too, why Lot 10 was mentioned in a report, as it reflects badly on Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, giving the impression he might be the one complaining about the unsightliness in the shopping district for the rich and famous.

I cannot help but get the impression that our minister is more interested in impressing tourists, especially foreigners, on how well our country has developed in terms of Petronas Twin Towers and the high-end developments taking place in its vicinity. Form over substance?

How we wish we are as rich as United Arab Emirates, where free foods are provided neatly and conveniently like this...


But, I am sure most people would agree, what is practical in Dubai, will not be so in Malaysia.

I just came across a story which I would like to share with those who think they are rich and famous or high and mighty, with the moral 'Someone seemingly insignificant and irrelevant today could be the very person that will  help you in your need tomorrow'.

Man Locked In Cold Room
Juan worked at a meat distribution factory. One day, when he finished with his work schedule, he went into the meat cold  room to check on something, but in a moment of bad luck, the door swung and closed on him and he was locked inside with no help in sight.
Although he screamed and knocked  with all his might, his cries went unheard as no one could hear him. Most of the workers had already gone, and from outside the cold room it's impossible to hear what was going on inside.
Five hours later, with Juan close on the verge of death, the cold room  door was opened by the security guard of the factory and this saved Juan's life.
Juan on recovering asked the security guard what made him open the cold room door, as it wasn't part of his duty or work routine, and he explained thus:      
"I've been working in this factory for 35 years and hundreds of workers come in and go out every day, but you're one of the few who always greet me in the morning and says goodbye to me every night when leaving after working hours.
Many treat me as if I am invisible.
Today,  like every other day, you greeted me in your simple manner .... ' Hello ' at the entrance when reporting for work. But curiously,  after working hours today, I realised that I did not hear your usual ' bye! see you tomorrow '. Hence I decided to check around the factory and for good measure checked the cold room..   
I always looked  forward to your ' Hi ' and ' bye ' every day. To you, I am someone.
When I did  not hear your farewell this evening, I knew something had happened.
Then I thoroughly checked the whole factory and I am so glad that I found you."


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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Protecting our own diplomat at the cost of our nation's reputation and credibility?

A Malaysian diplomat was in the Wellington High Court, 'charged by Wellington police with burglary and assault with intent to rape'.

Initially, even the country of his origin was barred from being mentioned by the press. But this futile attempt was rendered useless soon enough.

Then our Malaysian Foreign Minister stepped in and the diplomat was recalled back to Malaysia under diplomatic immunity. But his action had caused more damage to our country's reputation instead, because he appeared to have lied...

NZ offered alternative for Malaysian diplomat to return home
Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman today said it was New Zealand which allowed the Malaysian diplomat, charged with burglary and assault with intent to rape, to be brought back to Malaysia.
“During the discussion on May 12, the New Zealand side had offered an alternative for the accused to be brought back to Malaysia.

More:
http://www.therakyatpost.com/news/2014/07/01/new-zealand-offered-alternative-malaysian-diplomat-return-home/

Compare and contrast with...

'The Malaysian Government asked New Zealand to drop all charges against a diplomat accused of sexual assault, newly released documents show.
Government released correspondence this evening confirmed that New Zealand asked Malaysia to waive diplomatic immunity for Muhammed Rizalman Bin Ismail, a junior military official at the Malaysian High Commission in Wellington.'

More:
http://steadyaku-steadyaku-husseinhamid.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-malaysian-sex-diplomat-and.html

Diplomatic immunity has its purpose and should not be abused, says British envoy
Diplomatic immunity is not to be abused or used to get away with criminal acts, said a British diplomat in an interview with The New Zealand Herald.

British High Commissioner to New Zealand and Samoa Vicki Treadell, who is due to become the High Commissioner to Malaysia when she finishes her term at the end of the month, said diplomatic immunity was there for a good reason.

"Our position on this is very clear, that you have it for the purpose of representing Britain and doing your job.
"You don't have it to get away with criminality," she told the Herald. Treadell, however, declined to comment on the current controversy involving a Malaysian diplomat accused of sexual assault in New Zealand.

The Herald said Treadell was making her comments without knowing where the diplomat at the centre of the latest case in New Zealand came from.

Treadell said diplomatic immunity allowed diplomats to go about their business on behalf of their government and was particularly useful in countries with poor human rights.

- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/diplomatic-immunity-has-its-purpose-and-should-not-be-abused-says-british-e#sthash.P5Rcs5kl.dpuf

'Sexual assault isn't part of diplomatic role'
'Extending diplomatic immunity to a diplomatic attache accused of sexual assault and burglary sends the signal that such immunity is a license to commit crime.
Saying this in a statement yesterday, NGO Lawyers for Liberty's executive director Eric Paulsen said that extending such immunity jeopardises Malaysia-New Zealand ties.'

Having recalled the diplomat back to Malaysia, do you think our Foreign Minister will agree to have him extradited? To have him face our local justice instead is an insult to New Zealand's judicial system, as there was a presumption that he will not be justly tried in NZ. What about NZ's victim? Will she be satisfied that the alleged culprit is being tried in his own country? Our country's credibility is at an all-time low, yet we expect other countries to be agreeable to our judicial system.

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