Monday, December 27, 2010

*IT'S THE END OF THE YEAR AS WE KNOW IT

And I feel fine...

Yeah, 2010 - good bye.

I'm doing my annual review of the year a tad bit earlier this year, what with this platform being more of a pressurising chore instead of a hobby that was once well loved. Maybe a few days break of not having that nagging feeling to post a post might help me in this front. We'll see in the next year.

If I were to describe 2010 in one word, I'd use the word INCONSEQUENTIAL, because, really - it didn't seem to have any significance at all. It was there, always in the background challenging you to keep up with it. Sometimes you ran to catch up, and sometimes you just threw your hands in the air and went and slept. It was that kind of year.

Stuff That Made 2010 (Things that happened, stuff I learned, stuff I did, etc)

1. This was the year of vacations, with friends and family, overseas and local. While the vacation itself was good, coming back and facing the realities of life was tough.
2. Made a total of four (4!) new friends this year, and 3 of them were students who did their internship in my workplace, and one is a colleague. Says alot, doesn't it?
3. Did a lot of reading this year... I tried compiling a list, but I seem to have misplaced it.

5. The migraines which reduced in frequency the past few years have come back to haunt me once again
6. Found out that the Dettol Antiseptic Hand Wash actually prevents you from falling sick. I've not had the flu since I started keeping one in my office
7. I have a doppelganger. She seems to like most of the things I like - books, observing people, finding a quiet place to eat and read during lunch, thinks that a lot of people around us are idiots, have strange encounters, etc. She even looks like me from the back. Creepy!
8. I actually watched more movies than I usually do. I also realised that I hate romantic comedies, love animated stuff, and have surprisingly enjoyed anime more than I thought I would. Could I say it was a good year for movies? No, I can't.
9. Family members like my potato salad <3
10. Some things are really, really difficult to move out from your system. I could give examples, but I choose not to.
11. Climbed two hills in preparation for hiking the tallest mountain in Malaysia, but it unfortunately stopped there. Frequency in going to the gym also reduced due to the increased frequency in headaches/migraine.
12. I have been a lousy friend to some people.

Yeah, so that was 2010 in a nutshell. I didn't like the year that much - and I'd only give it a 4 out of 10 for awesomeness. I'm actually looking forward to a fresh new start come 2011, and I think that it's probably time to look for other fresh starts as well, especially concerning item #4.

* A spin on the song by R.E.M  - It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)

Monday, December 20, 2010

A to Z

The afternoon was scattered with thunder and lightning and rain - not too heavy, but continuous. Our very trusty weather forecaster, the local satellite TV extraordinaire dotted it's screens with messages of service not available (although I'm sure most Malaysians who subscribe to said satellite TV provider will agree that they should also state that the reason why service is not available is due to the rain) I also switched off the modem, because well, I really couldn't handle another drama fraught incident with my internet provider in case the modem got fried.

Therefore, with the afternoon off, and the usual form of entertainment while at home (the internet) being unavailable, I tackled the last bit of organizing my music in an orderly fashion - alphabetically ordered folders, and in cases where there were more than 3 songs for a particular artist, they get their own folder too! I must say it was a task that was strangely calming, and the mild (but annoying!) headache that was bugging me since Friday night suddenly decided to disappear. Who'd have thought that loud music could send a headache packing!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

THE 3D MOVIE QUEST

Over a year ago, comic fans all over the world were furious to discover that Disney was buying over Marvel Comics and reacted in a somewhat extreme manner (or so I thought), which I found utterly confusing until a friend explained the reason behind the Marvel Comics fans reactions. Original post here  - and if you were as confused as I was over the reaction of comic fans, pay attention to the explanation in the comments by Cyberfish. 

I found myself with perhaps about 10 other people in a cold and darkened room while pursuing my 3D movie quest before the year closes yesterday evening. I had a choice between the latest Narnia movie, Tangled, and Tron, but decided to pick Tangled as it had less risk of being over crowded (which was true as there were only about 10 to 12 people there - awesome, I tell you)

First of all, I did dig the 3D effects, although I believe I would have looked like a moron in those 3D glasses, and seriously doubted their cleanliness. I did wipe them with my jacket before using them though. There were certain things I wanted to just grab, because they seemed to be within reach, and thankfully I didn't flinch or move too much, except for the part where I folded my foot under me as it was too cold. I should remember to use shoes instead of flip-flops the next time I go and watch movies. And maybe a beanie and gloves as well. He he...

As for the movie, I found it enjoyable enough as I'm not a fairy tale purist. But that also could be because I've not read the original version either but pretty much recall another televised version which involved a woman craving for horse radishes! The movie was fun and funny, introduced an unexpected weapon, and for someone who's not been allowed out of the tower, all her life Rapunzel seems to have perfectly mastered the art of people skills and could give professional horse whisperers a run for their money any given day.  Throw in an adorable chameleon, an overzealous horse  bent on revenging a vain (and rightly so) thief, and a bunch of big, scary looking men with dreams, and you get the formula that makes you shake with laughter.

I didn't care much for the soundtrack though, especially when you compare the songs from this movie to older Disney stuff like The Little Mermaid (I read the original version of this story and felt so miserable!) which had "Under the Sea" which I loved, or even the soundtrack from The Jungle Book, The Lion King, Alladin and Beauty and The Beast.

And now I think I've got a crush on Flynn Rider!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

WHERE OLD THINGS END AND NEW THINGS BEGIN

While replying to an e-mail thread to the last few *surviving old friends I have this evening, I came up with the conclusion that December doesn't really exist in the working world. In fact, it's the month which we use to prepare for the next year - drafting KPIs and whatnots and in some cases, to complete stuff that ends the year - accounts, for instance.

Towards the end of last month, I before the "December does not exist" epiphany hit me, I was forced to admit that I might need a list to get some stuff done before the year ends. I do it at work, so I didn't see why I couldn't use a list to get personal things done as well. That particular night, I wanted to call it my **year end resolutions and post it up on Facebook, for two very clear reasons - it's the end of the year as we know it, and if  I don't do the items I listed, I can kick myself as we usher in the new year, but then I procrastinated (nothing new there), and the next thing I know, I have two pending tags there, one of which I had cleverly put up here instead of there. In my defence, I need to edit the format, hence the delay!

Anyway, (drum rolls, please) here is the list in no particular order

1. Watch a movie in 3D 
Surprise, surprise... I have never watched a movie in 3D before. So yeah, any movie will do. 

2. Read up AND comprehend the Constitution of Malaysia
Well, I'm honestly fed up of the argument regarding article 153 among the race-centric people of the country, so despite the intimidating legal language style, I attempted reading the introduction pages of the version from 1964 - wish me luck!

Edit (10/12): So apparently the book which I'm reading, although misleadingly titled "The Constitution of Malaysia" is apparently only an attempt to explain the constitution to laypeople, and does not list out all the articles in it's true form. Bangs head on desk.

3. Watch Harry Potter
Done. Yay. To top it off, I spent the past two days reading the seventh book again. The chapter titled 19 Years Later is still somewhat cringe-worthy.

4. Complete organising my music alphabetically.
I began this insane task earlier this year and have most of it compiled neatly by artist, alphabetically. Well, it was better than naming the folders "Music", "Music 1", "New Music", and "Neww Music", right?  There are about two or three new folders that need sorting, but the last bit seems to be the hardest!

5.Rescue mission of Bali holiday pictures from penti3
Bali was my first ever holiday, and at that time I was still using the old pentium 3 (lovingly known as penti3) which runs on the most unstable Windows Millenium, and for some strange reason, I never bothered to copy the photos into a CD or a thumbdrive for leisurely viewing in later years.

6. Complete write up on North Sumatera trip, and the 2nd and 3rd day of Taiping (from July)

So, that's it... a reasonable list that has items within my reach - we'll see how it goes :)

* Well, they are still alive by the looks of it, but lack of communication makes it seem as though they have dropped off the face of the planet into strange islands that have names like Motherhood, The Wife, or Missing In Action.

** Not to be mistaken with the far more popular New Year Resolutions or even UN Resolutions

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

THE PRESUMABLY MISERLY TOOTH FAIRY

Third time's a charm? Probably not...

I spent Sunday night worrying endlessly about a relatively simple procedure that involves the removal of a wayward wisdom tooth which was scheduled for Monday afternoon. I had taken the afternoon off, and spent most of the morning trying my best to cram up as much work as I possibly could. However, something was nagging me to call and reconfirm my appointment with the dentist, which I finally did about 11-ish.
A soft voice greets me across the phone, and she says, "Sorry, but the dentist is on emergency leave today. Can you come on Wednesday?" 

Seriously? Emergency leave?

Noting that this is the third time an attempt to remove the wisdom tooth has failed, I'm beginning to think that the Universe is dead set against me removing my wisdom tooth. Why is it so, I can't explain, but seriously, once or twice is acceptable, but the third time? I'm not sure if I want to go ahead and remove it anymore...

Sunday, December 05, 2010

HARRY POTTER AND HOW IT BEGINS TO END

A word of unsolicited advice: If you want to watch a movie based on a book, never ever read the book right before going to the movie.

The sister and I decided to spend the morning watching the latest Harry Potter movie, based on the seventh and final book in the series. I usually have an aversion towards movies made from books, especially if I had had my hands on the books first. A total opposite when compared to my view on movies based on books if I had watched the movie first instead. The day started strangely enough, while we were in the line buying our tickets (sadly, e-ticketing is a bit of a pain in the ass for both the sister and I) One of the staff was surveying the line and asked if I was of a certain ethnicity, to which I said yes. He asked me to fill up a customer satisfaction form, and in return, I got a complimentary pass to the movie I wanted to watch! Not bad, eh?

PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

As the books suggest, the plot gets darker as we head towards the end of it all. With Dumbledore's death at the end of the sixth book/movie, Harry is left on his own to find and destroy what is left of the horcruxes - fragments of Voldermort's soul, an arduous task in which Ron and Hermione have pledged to help him with. The Ministry has been taken over by Voldermort's supporters, and everything seems hopeless as they are adamant in looking for Harry so that Voldermort can destroy him, while having their own form of ethnic cleansing (collecting and torturing witches and wizards who were muggle born) 

Although the movie could not explain all of the back story to the viewer compared to the book (such as what was actually written by Elphias Doge, or Rita Skeeter's interview), I thought the movie had a good flow. It's been at least three years since I read the book, and as the movie unfolded, I could recall certain items. I thought the effects were good, had a few good shocks in certain scenes, and sort of noted that the Dobby in this movie certainly looked much better than when Dobby was first introduced in the second movie. I also found the scene that explains the story of the Deathly Hallows equally fascinating. I had actually forgotten what the Deathly Hallows were! Despite the hopelessness of the situation (the scenes were actually very wintry in nature - with snow and ice - signs of depression??), there were somewhat lighter moments as well, especially in the beginning. Overall, for the first time, I honestly felt that I did enjoy the movie.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A DOZEN + THREE AUTHORS

A few days ago, I received a surprise tag from an old friend on facebook - surprise because I thought tagging on Notes ended when 2009 drew it's last curtain. However, I decided to take on the task of doing the tag, but with a little bit of Secret Agent Woman twist... modified rules!

The original Rules are as follows:
The Rules - Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors, poets included, who've influenced you and will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag a few friends, including me, because I am interested in seeing what authors you choose. To do so, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note.

I ended up taking a little more than 15 minutes to come up with the list, because I thought I'd explain how each author played a role in my life and how they influenced me and such.

1. Enid Blyton
2. Carolyn Keene 
3. Franklin W Dixon

Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven series, Carolyn Keene and Franklin W Dixon's Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series were my main reading materials when I was aged between nine to twelve. I envied the kids in Blyton's books because they were able to go out, have secret societies and awesome hideouts to boot and solved crimes while I was stuck at home, living their adventures behind thick glasses! I also loved how Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys solved crimes in their local areas. I might have also had a crush on the younger Hardy boy! The best thing is, reading these books were the inspiration behind an adventure story I wrote at the age of 11 for the Commonwealth Essay competition. Memories...

4. LM Montgomery
5. Alfred Hitchcock
6. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
7. Christopher Pike

Aged 13: LM Montgomery wrote one of the best series of books a girl could ever read. I laughed and cried with Anne, the principal character of the book, and for some strange reason wanted to be her. Anne did a fair bit of writing in the books, and I was inspired by her - I crowded my essays with big words because she did so too.  Having finished the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, I graduated to the Three Investigators written by Alfred Hitchcock. Crimes rock. I suppose the single biggest influence in my interest in crime solving was contributed by Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I quit reading fiction at the age of 15 right up till 17, but I occasionally secretly read books borrowed from friends - at that time they were all reading Christopher Pike and RL Stine... so that was what I read.

Age: 18 till now
8. Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird was the single most favourite book of mine, which I read without fail at least once a year. (Haven't done my 2010 round yet, though) It's my wish to write something like that.

9. JK Rowling  - I had the first three Harry Potter books thrown on my lap. "You must read this", said the sister. I refused at first because every newspaper, every young person out there were talking about Harry potter. I refused to be sucked into the madness. I relented, though and never looked back. Although I'm a bit disillusioned by the way HP is used to make money - games, movies, and promotions when the books were released, I'm inspired by JK Rowling's rise to success, from a 'struggling to make ends meet' kind of person, to someone who almost single handedly made young people read again!

10. JD Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye. Enough said. I loved Holden Caulfield so much that I wanted to meet the grown up version of him!

11. Michael Crichton - I've enjoyed almost every book of his, turning pages feverishly and skipping sleep as I had to know what was going on and how things will end. What I enjoy most about Crichton is the fact that his books are so believable. 
 
12. Sue Townsend - One of the funniest writers ever. I first met Adrian Mole while huddled at a desk in school with an old friend as we giggled like how twelve year old girls would at Adrian's tragic life. It was only a few pages, but I hunted Adrian down and read the whole series long after the giggling stopped. Adrian's diary entries inspired me to start blogging.

13. Bill Bryson - I started off with A Short History of Nearly Everything and enjoyed it so much. He writes in such a way that I think he could even make paint drying sound interesting. He's also travelled a lot and his journeys are documented in a few other books, which while highly entertaining, has made me doubt my own capabilities of jotting down my travels! 

14. Neil Gaiman
15. Terry Pratchett
I discovered both Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett after a brief conversation with a friend who recommended that I read Good Omens. Till today, Good Omens is one of my favorite books. From there, I branched out to Neil Gaiman first (his books were more easily obtainable) and loved his dark and mysterious brand of horror. I wish I had his genius in cooking up such wonderful plots. As for Terry Pratchett, which I found a little later, his writing style sure beats everything else. He's funny (and it's very natural) and I absolutely love how he uses asterisks to describe stuff. In fact, I have adopted the asterisk to explain stuff on the blog at times.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

WHERE TECHNOLOGY OBLITERATES COMPASSION

When you add an 'e' as a prefix to a word, it automatically moves up the ladder of 'high-techness'. Take e-mails for instance, where we bid adieu to stamps, long lines, and late deliveries as well as properly constructed sentences in the process.

The other day, my workplace announced that we'll be embracing a new technology known as the e-leave application which will be replacing our old tried and tested, environmentally detrimental and often misused green leave cards as we welcome 2011, and wanted to run a company-wide trial run to iron out any issues beforehand. I think the idea is an excellent one, after all, technology should be embraced, but only to the extent of how much it allows you to embrace it (People who know me well enough know that technology and I have some unresolved issues. My laptop is electrocuting me as we speak)

However, the way I see it, this new method to apply leave has a few downsides to it, especially to those people who work in the departments where work never ends at 5:30 pm. You see, most of us employ the look and see method of taking leave, which involves snatching free time in between projects and the general messiness that is the manufacturing field, or taking a half day off after settling some unfinished business. Naturally knowing how our schedules are, the boss overlooks the (then unwritten) rule of the need to apply leave three days before, and in return, we do not grumble too much if the said leave is interrupted with phone calls, or a sudden request to "please come to work - you can replace your leave tomorrow". This is applicable because a lot of us actually do take days off to just rest at home. With the new application, the system rejects any leave applied less than three days before, and with it goes any compassion the boss had for us, because you can't beat the system.

Sigh. Technology has certainly obliterated compassion :(

SEXISM AND THE MP3 PLAYER

I gave iTunes on my laptop the liberty to surprise me with it's choice of a playlist, a feature I never knew it had, which it did with as much enthusiasm as a computer application is apt to. The result was pleasantly surprising, as it seems to have picked up songs which I might have picked myself, had I been dilligent enough. I must admit though, that it's enthusiasm in including a large number of Queen,  R.E.M, Oasis and Thin Lizzy songs was as surprising as the fact that it had decided to (almost) completely ignore the female artists in my music folder!

On another note, I watched the movie 500 Days of Summer over the weekend and fell in love all over again with Regina Spektor's music... here's one of her songs which was used in the movie.



PS: Please excuse the rather lame topics chosen and passed off as blog posts... the mojo has turned rusty due to lack of use!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

CARTWHEELS AND COFFEE

Or coffee and cartwheels, chronologically. I probably had an overly strong dose of black coffee this morning, and with that, (surprisingly) an unexplainable amount of excess nervous energy which I tried using up by tapping my feet and walking around the factory, all the while imagining myself doing cartwheels, despite the fact that I have never ever pulled off anything even remotely close to cartwheels in my entire life! This went on the whole day that at about 6:15pm I decided that enough is enough and I should head back and then go to the gym. I ended up on the treadmill in the house instead accompanied by an extremely sexist playlist on my iPod.

Freshly showered, as I sit here typing this, I feel the energy coming back. I have a presentiment that I'm gonna suffer on the morrow. Oh well!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Where the Wisdom Tooth Rears it's Ugly Head

Again.

You learn new stuff every day. Today's lesson is, do not procrastinate, even if the reason for your procrastination is the fact that the receptionist called to cancel your appointment with the dental surgeon at the last minute. That was more than a year ago.

The past two weeks saw a strange kind of pain in my right lower jaw, and because my not so big mouth was fully of healthy giant teeth (Take A from mommy, and B from daddy and voila, here's the result - even if part A and B don't necessarily match) I couldn't see what was going on at the back of my mouth. I knew I bit into something hard just before the pain started and dad reckoned I had cracked my tooth!

I went to the dentist earlier today, and this time the dentist explained what was going on in my mouth. Apparently, I DO have very big teeth (all the better to eat you with!!) and a not so big jaw, which led to the wisdom tooth being impacted in such a way it had decided to drill a hole in a formerly healthy molar which was the cause of the pain. As this post is being typed, the damaged tooth has been filled with some stuff, the pain is barely there, and there's going to be a surgery in the first week of December. It's going to be bloody. That much I can say.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Polyethylene and The Shopaholic

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Just how do you mean that, sir?
 

The above is one of the many memorable quotes from The Graduate (1967), where plastic was probably the field which promised a promising future, allowing fresh graduates to build castles on orange clouds with dollar bills. 

Fast forward to 2010, plastics have been relegated to the status of the evil invention that could possibly spell the end of humans on planet earth for the same reason their existence was celebrated not too long ago - their ability to stay in their form without rotting. For this very reason, the state government of the state I live in started introducing the 'No Plastic Bag Day' campaign since January this year. Every Saturday, shoppers were deprived of their usual plastic bags (degradable or otherwise) and were encouraged to use other means, either in the form of environmentally friendly hemp bags, knapsacks, or their own recycled plastic bags. If they insisted on a plastic bag, it would be charged at 20 sen a piece (approx 6 US cents)

The other day, an online newspaper (which I only read because they have reader feedback that serves as the immediate countermeasure to insurmountable boredom) ran an article claiming that the lack of free plastic bags on Saturdays may have effect on how the people in the state will vote in the future general elections. (In the previous GE in 2008, some of the people collectively voted for an alternative government, which led to their win in the state) Naturally, like some of the comments that accompanied the article, I too think that the reporter is being a bit extreme in concluding that the plastic bags are going to make or break the chances of the current government to stay in power, but I shall refrain from saying anything about the article itself. For now.


While the article seems to be centred around whiny and selfish people who probably resent change for any given reason, we cannot deny that the plan certainly has some flaws that were probably overlooked before or during the initial stages of implementation. The thing is, even before this article, and another really superficial one (written by the newspaper's managing editor!!) were published, my sister and I had discussed this issue at length over the span of a few months, especially when we shopped for groceries on Saturdays and found ourselves stuffing groceries into the gym bag or carting them in the shopping cart to the car - seriously, unloading individual items take so much more time than if they were bagged. 

I do sometimes groan inwardly at the inconvenience, but I've accepted that we can actually do shopping without the necessity of having the groceries bagged. After all, unless the items are fragile (think eggs), them doing some disco in the boot generally does not cause any severe damage.  The sister thinks that the burden of removing the free plastic bags should not be the sole responsibility of the shopper, but instead should fall onto the shopping malls themselves as they do save quite a bit on plastic bags when it's not given. What we need is an alternative packaging, perhaps paper bags (like those in the movies). At one time, once of the shops actually provided old cartons for people to arrange their shopping, but for reasons unknown, (carton hogs, maybe) - it seems to have been discontinued.

What I noticed though, is that this "No Plastic Bag Day" has not actually educated the people about reducing and reusing the plastic bags, even the cashiers at the shops. Take this case, for instance... on the way back from the gym on a Sunday, I decide to get some lipbalm from the pharmacy. The lipbalm can actually fit into my jeans back pocket, or if I'm not into stuffing my pockets, I can even hold it in my hands or chuck it into my gym bag. However, the cashier, without even thinking twice, will pull a small plastic bag to pack my stuff, unless I tell her or him that I don't need one.

Note: I'm not referring to anyone as a shopaholic... I just thought it adds a nice ring to the title!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

RING OF FIRE

I was around twelve years old when I realised how insanely close the country I live in, Malaysia, has managed to escape the violence displayed by the Pacific Ring of Fire that plagues a few of our neighbouring countries in a lesson known as Alam & Manusia (Nature and (hu)Man, if you will). The picture here includes Malaysia in the ring for some strange reason - but that is not the case... there are no volcanoes to speak of and earthquakes are mostly aftershocks from the nearby earthquakes.

Merapi in July
Volcanoes have always fascinated me despite their destructive nature and the depressing stories of people having to be evacuated, and so on.. A few years ago, I saw the my very first volcano *up close in the island of Bali. And then in July this year, I saw another two volcanoes in the island of Java, Merapi and Merbabu, and also a documentary of an erupting Merapi in all it's volcanic fury. Merbabu on the other hand is a dormant volcano. Merapi, at that point was standing there, quietly amongst the clouds without any indication whatsoever about the activities that was silently (at that time, probably) going on in it's magma chambers. 

Three months later, Merapi erupts. And I was in Indonesia at that time (albeit in a different island), and while watching the news, I could not help be in awe over the local people's matter of fact way of handling the issue. I suppose they're just very used to things like these, but still... and yet, I could not help but be saddened by the fact that the volcano had indeed erupted, disrupting the lives of the people, who will most probably have to rebuild everything from scratch, and that only three months before, I had stood there at the bservation area facing the volcano, listening about the eruption just four years ago.

It does make me wonder if you do leave a bit of yourself in the places you've visited before, thus leaving an intangible and incomprehensible relationship with the place....

* from a safe distance from neighbouring mountains/hills ;)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

EAT, SLEEP AND BE MERRY

At least we eat, and sleep - the being merry part is always subjective to what actually being merry consists of. This my friends, is what a festival is to this particular person who types this as she hides behind her online presence of a 1280 x 800 pixels screen.

5th November marked another day on the calender, and for a certain group of people, it marked a festival known as Deepavali or Diwali (depending on where you originated from, I guess) literally translated to be the festival of lights. It is supposed to be the day where some people rejoiced the victory of good over evil (and quoting myself from a similar post from 2008 - "though seeing the world as it is today, I think the good never won at all. They were just in denial over their losing the battle and the evil forces for once left it at that and chose to remain silent. " that's my opinion on the so called good over evil)

Original post here:

I suppose it is the absence of something interesting to do that makes festivals so dreary... yes, you anticipate it by preparing things people usually prepare for festivals, such as cleaning out the cupboards, rearranging books, allowing the aroma of freshly baked cookies to waft around the house and other such festive related things. But when the day finally arrives, you're just glad that it's yet another public holiday for you to take a break in, eat, and sleep, and if you're up to it - be merry.

PS: I must try to make it more interesting next year. Seriously.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Reluctant Wedding Crashers

The three of us weaved our way through the empty spaces between tables and chairs tied with gold ribbon to a table for eight in a far corner of the restaurant, sat down next to each other and burst out laughing.

*Wendy and Kenny decided to have their wedding dinner the very same night a couple of friends and I had decided to have dinner together as we exchanged stories of our lives for the past three months since we were all located in different countries!

So there we were, way before the simultaneous laughter, standing outside the restaurant in our tops and jeans, looking a bit out of place among folks who were dressed in nicely pressed shirts or dresses with shawls draped over their shoulders making their way in. Contrary to our initial assumption that all the tables would have been taken, the hostess informed us otherwise and led us to a table among the six that were not booked by Wendy and Kenny.

Good food and conversation aside, none of us could really keep our eyes away from what was going on in the dinner itself, from the slide show of the pre-wedding photoshoot - we wondered why the bride was dressed in a gown while the groom was in a white shirt and jeans rolled up to somewhere between his ankle and his knee, laughed at the video of the traditional Chinese ceremony held at the house - it wasn't exactly funny, just a bit cheesy, but probably all videos are- because lets face it, we're not professional actors, right down to assuming that the man who belted 3 songs during the karaoke session, with some dance moves was the bride's favourite uncle. RTG offered to sing at ES's future wedding dinner (if and when it happens) karaoke session, to which ES replied that even if she did have a wedding dinner, there wouldn't be a karaoke session (apparently, it's popular, but not a requirement), but she'd get the MC to announce that there would be a special performance from RTG!

In the end, the three of us came to the conclusion that:
a) If you're having a wedding dinner at a restaurant (as opposed to a privately booked hall), just book all the tables so that strangers (especially those like us) will not be able to intrude into one of your most important moments.
b) The loudest table that cheers are most probably the colleagues
c) Wedding dinners are curiously similar to company annual dinners

* These people were total strangers to us. Their names were on the board behind the cake (although ES insists that the 'wedding cake' is not really a whole cake, but just a slice of cake fitted into a mold that resembles the tiered cake!)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Short Commentary on the *Budget

* No I don't have the patience to comment on the whole Budget, unfortunately... 

I did a very **grown up thing last Friday by attempting to listen to the tabling of the Budget 2011 on a placidly warm afternoon since I had actually taken the afternoon off from work - not for listening to the budget, though. Well, that is if you exclude the fact that I actually slept off on the floor half way through. I wasn't alone, though. While the PM was tabling the budget the camera zoomed across the room, showing certain people in many different states of sleep or attempted sleep.

But I digress.

The Tourist Friendly Budget
The radio station I listen to on the way to work had previously mentioned the country's concern over tourists not shopping enough here, preferring countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong for such activities. It is perhaps for that very reason bags, perfume and (ahem) imported underwear will be tax free? Oh yes, and there was a pause for applause after the meaningful mention of underwear. Perhaps the spanking new 100-storey tower will pour salt over Petronas Twin Towers' wounds by luring outlets selling these items by the dozen. Good luck to KL folk in handling the traffic jam while the construction is going on.

Of hybrids and mobile phones
An interesting item tabled is the exemption of import and excise duty for hybrid cars. I found that particularly interesting as I had heard somewhere (source: from the back of my mind) that we needed to sustain our petroleum industry and alternative power sources were discouraged - explains the non-existence of solar powered cars for a country that receives 11 to 12 hours of sunshine every single day. Mobile phones too will be exempted from sales tax after this - iPhone, anyone?

So, government babies are more important than private sector babies?
In the past, everyone recommended working in the private sector for various reasons. The government job was more like a last resort or a temporary stepping stone whilst waiting for something better. And then something happened. Anyway, this year's budget tabled an increase in maternity leave for government servants. Nothing against prolonged maternity leave per se, but extending it just for a certain group of people? Screams unfair, eh? (This sadly reminds me of the time I was 14. We didn't have a maths teacher and a geography teacher for two months because they all went to give birth!)

Service tax??
Restaurants charge 5% for government tax, and an extra 10% for service charge (if they serve you which is not always the case - it's good that you don't have to give a tip, or worry that you're not tipping enough or tipping too much, but on the other hand, no matter how lousy the service is, including having the waiter ignore your request for a glass of water after a good helping of tom yam you still have to fork out that 10%) And then earlier there was a proposal to introduce Government Service Tax (GST) which was objected, argued about and finally postponed. I suppose the service tax mentioned here refers to what the receipts label as Government tax - which will be increased to 6% based on this budget.

**mentally grown up, that is. If I grow physically any more, I'm in trouble!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Spin the Top

Bukit Gasing (somewhere in August!)

City folk in Malaysia are mostly a deprived lot. Weekends are spent mostly in the air-conditioned comfort of any of the shopping malls, contributing to the economy and the waistline (we love food!), so for those who seek other type of activities, Bukit Gasing seems to be one of the few logical options.

The 3 cm high 'anak sungai'
We started the hike slightly after the sun had risen (groping with torchlights in the darkness should probably be left to the pros) It had rained the night before and it was slightly slippery, and occasionally raindrops found their way from the treetops to the top of our hatless heads. The thing about Bukit Gasing is that it has quite a number of trails with different levels of difficulty - by chance, I guess. I found a map on another website, which was helpful but didn't exactly prevent us from getting completely confused (both the sister and I have a bad sense of direction - it runs in the family)

We tried the 200 steps route first, but skipped checking out the observation tower. We'll attempt that on future hikes. Later on we moved downwards towards the route labelled as "Anak Sungai" I was imagining crossing/wading through a knee high river, which turned out to be a miniature brook, bubbling happily along. It was about 3 centimetres deep! The route was pretty alright as it was mostly downhill, And you could see the morning mist obscuring vision a little bit here and there. 

As we moved further along, both of us were unsure which way to head to. As we stopped at a spot to check out a map, we encountered a bunch of people. They probably sensed that we were new there (the map being a big giveaway, I suppose) and asked if we were looking for the way out or in. Naturally as it had only been a short while, we wanted to explore the other routes and said in. The lady pointed out the route she wanted to take and asked if we'd like to follow them. It was an uncomfortable decision to make, but we said yes anyway.
Yay for good samaritans!

The suspension bridge - with a stranger on it
Our good samaritans led the way out into a safer, more popular route. According to them, the route we seemed to be heading to was slightly dangerous, as only earlier this year there had been an incident. We passed by several interesting spots including old abandoned housing when Bukit Gasing was a rubber plantation. There was also lovely smelling mangrove pandan leaves which reminded me of nasi lemak as we climbed up the hill!

We parted ways with the good samaritans a little while later after they had led us to the intersection which either leads us out or towards other trails. The sister and I decided to explore even more and we took the trail towards a suspension bridge. We crossed over to the the other side of the hill and went on climbing.


The unknown track.

By this point, the  map once again seemed to have lost all relevance as we could not gauge where we were - after all, the map was a rather simple one, drawn by someone who goes hiking there on his website (see link attached above) We suspect, we had entered the area marked as the unknown track. Someone must have known about it, though... seeing that it had wooden steps to prevent enthusiastic hikers from slipping and falling down. However, after torturing the quads, for like what we felt as forever - (actually, it was only about 30 minutes!) we finally reached the exit.

And in typical Malaysian style, after all that hiking, we drove back to our area and had a big, wonderful hearty breakfast of chicken char siew rice.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Reasons to Tear Your Hair Out

You call a hot but dumb girl a bimbo, but what would you call a girl who is not hot but equally dumb?

I had an encounter with one of those types yesterday... I don't mind her being not hot, but it was the dumb that I couldn't stand.

It all began on Monday morning, starting with an e-mail from my boss regarding a certain problem I was supposed to investigate. With Sherlock Holmes-esque enthusiasm and reasoning (Elementary, my dear Watson), I dove into it, hoping to get some leads before I was imprisoned against my will from 10:00 am till Tuesday afternoon. For that, I had to communicate with a certain person, the person who initiated the chain of e-mails to be exact.

To my dismay, I didn't get an immediate response on the office instant messenger. So I went looking for the evidence myself, with hopes of finding some information so that I could proceed with the necessary tests, but the information wasn't where it was supposed to be. Someone must have taken it away.

Later that evening, I finally get a response...

*bimbo: Hi (insert someone else's name here)!!!!
              I'm so tired!!!!!
              Oops... sorry, wrong message.
              (there was an emoticon here, but as I had disabled emoticons, it just stated "title")

And that's it... no reply to my question, or any indication of an attempt to help me locate what I was looking for. What if it had been a matter of life and death? (And yes, she did indeed reply me with someone else's name (her BFF at work, actually, whose name begins with the same alphabet as mine) and all those exclamation points)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Moment of Madness

The impulsive shopper who goes by the nom de blog Terra Shield stood in front of the fiction shelf where  authors whose names started with P decorated the spines of the books they once wrote. And for the first time in over two years, the name Pratchett seemed to dominate the shelf. So there went the impulsive shopper, picking out books she wanted to read but couldn't because it was never easy to find Pratchett in the local bookstore she visited. With the help of her sister and a bewildered cousin (said cousin has never seen her in such a frenzied excitement), she grabbed a total of 11 books! That's going to be about four to five months worth of entertainment!


The 11 books obtained during the shopping frenzy


The whole collection from 2006 till now

Friday, September 24, 2010

Nothing Ever Happens

I made a wish to the universe the other day, hoping for something funny or odd to happen, if not to me, then perhaps to someone else. (And not in a bad way... like how I had my sneakers stolen at the gym - that was odd, not funny, or how I once dropped a box set of books on a girl (it was an accident!!)  who was sitting under the shelf, sneaking a read in the bookstore) Thirty three hours later, other than an incredibly hilarious story a friend of mine shared with me, nothing funny happened. In fact, nothing happened at all, unless you count the activities that led my work desk to look like a tornado passed right through it within four days of being back at work. It was very neat when I left it two weeks ago.

An attempt at chalk outlines using crayons :p
The other day, however had a slightly funny moment. See, while the plant shut down for Eid, we had some installation and repair work going on, and one of the things they did was to build a roof over the ASSembly area so that people wouldn't use the rain as an excuse to not loosen their creaky joints at 8 am to the most sickening tunes ever - one for each day of the week. Every Thursday, we are tortured with the theme song from Hawaii five O. Other than that they also resurfaced the floor (which is actually a road), but apparently didn't do a particularly good job. It had rained the night before and all along the road were puddles of water. And around the puddles of water were chalk outlines, like those around dead bodies found by the cops. A colleague spotted me staring at the puddle, caught my eye and we both burst out laughing - before 8 am.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Will They Never Learn?

How many people need to be buried under their respective houses before anyone realises that building houses on hillslopes is a bad, bad idea?

Earlier this month, the star online ran an article mentioning that the court has ruled in favour of a housing development in Bukit Gasing, one of the few remaining natural places (a hill for hiking) where city folk get in touch with nature.

Actual article here:

I had actually highlighted this hillside issue on this blog before, and instead of repeating myself, I figured I'd just reproduce the post here.

Originally posted on December 8, 2008
"You'd think that people would learn good lessons from tragedies past and attempt to prevent them from recurring and causing pain and injury all over again. Based on what's going on though, that seems to be not the case at all.

About two days ago, a landslide happened near a commercial area near Damansara Heights, where the roads were closed and the buildings evacuated. And even before the shock of that incident had blown over, another landslide happened in the hillside residential area of Bukit Antarabangsa near Ulu Klang in the middle of the night, killing four, injuring several others and destroying houses in the process. So far, about 3000 to 4000 people have been asked to evacuate the area.

Back in 1993, a tower block of this place called Highland Towers, another hillside residential area around the same area of Ulu Klang collapsed leading to the deaths of 48 people, and the formation of SMART (Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team), because we never had the need for one before. A study was conducted in the area, and it was decided that the land structure had weakened due to water that had seeped into the land from a source that was previously blocked.

Even the government agreed then that hillsides may not be the best area to build houses and decided on a rule to reduce housing areas at hillsides unless the land is proven to be safe, but even till today, you see all sorts of development of housing estates at hillsides, and you wonder if they're actually safe. I'm not sure if the houses at Bukit Antarabangsa were built before or after the Highland Towers tragedy because there seems to be no information available, but if it was built after the tragedy, then it's a bad case of not using history as a guide.

There is no doubt that hillside houses have a great view, and are always cooler (temperature wise, not hipper) than houses on low lying areas. Nevertheless, heavy rainfall at these former water catchment areas seem to seep in and when it is too much to handle, the land gives way and slides causing all these massive damage. And we all know how damaging water can be if look closely at the effects of floods, tsunamis, or even the slow effects over time that water causes in caves.

Now there is a talk about about reintroducing extra safety measures into housing at hillsides, including a proposed masterplan (after all, there is always a demand for houses at hillsides) Only time can tell if this is the best solution."

Monday, September 13, 2010

They Are Just Not That Into You

Unrequited love. A term I first got acquainted with in English Literature class, where our teacher, a fan of all things French and romantic introduced us to abridged works of authors such as Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo. At that time, it was just another new term which I unfortunately could not incorporate into any of my essays for school.

Now, if you have been *following the Malaysian news for the past one month, you'd probably know that we have had an incident with our less than friendly neighbour, the Indonesians (from a certain group that call themselves BENDERA actually). They seem to have taken a very dramatic stance by burning our flag and throwing crap at the Malaysian Embassy. (Ok, the throwing of crap is just plain gross... I think even with utmost hatred, the most dangerous thing I'd throw at someone is a Rubik's cube)

*Actual news link here

Anyway, incidences aside, what amuses me the most is the reaction from the Malaysian (ahem!) leadership. I was browsing through the online papers a few days ago (but was too busy to write this post then) and noticed that they (our esteemed 'leaders') are looking at this incident through baby pink tinted glasses. Take for instance this headline translated (not very accurately, alas) by yours truly from the Malaysian Insider: "(Name of politician): Outside forces pouring hot oil over Malaysia, Indonesia issue" but you get the general idea. He apparently thinks people of both the countries are all full of brotherly and sisterly love, and someone else is seeking to make both countries fight using this issue. And who is that someone else, precisely??

While understandably Malaysia (well, some of them at least, as the papers tell us) seems to have lots of love for our neighbours under the pretext that we are all the same kind of people (they use the word **serumpun here) and that (most) of them are of the same religion (lets just forget awhile the cases where maids are abused - but then again there are cases where the employers have been abused by the maids as well, so it's probably not related to this) the Indonesians do not hold onto the same sentiments. History has proven this, with the Indonesians declaring a Confrontation against us somewhere in the 60's because they didn't approve of the formation of Malaysia, and how it was done. If we were indeed serumpun as the Malaysian politicians believe, the formation of Malaysia should have never been an issue. Today, a huge number of Indonesians work in Malaysia (and have been given permanent resident status) and yet, when clashes like this occur, their hearts and loyalty are totally with Indonesia (I actually noticed this in my workplace - some of them seem to have collectively turned a wee bit rebellious of late)

So Malaysia, wake up, and smell the coffee... Lets face it, they are just not that into you! (Us)

** serumpun (loosely translated: same stock?)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Yogyakarta - The Palace and The Museum

Day 2 -

After an interesting peek into the past and a short lesson on the history of Buddhism, from Borobudur, we checked out another Buddhist temple (I cannot remember the name - although come to think of it, I don't even know if we ever found out the name!) around the vicinity. Here we also saw the Bodhi tree, the tree under which Buddha received enlightenment. We did stand under the tree for a short while, but were probably not exactly in the right frame of mind to be enlightened in any way whatsoever.

The Bodhi Tree: No enlightenment found here

The second Buddhist temple
We later hit the Sultan's Palace, another somewhat popular tourist destination judging from the number of non-local looking people around with cameras and backpacks. The strangest thing here is that the Sultan actually still lives there, in his palace. Of course we didn't go into the palace to say hi or anything, but if I was the Sultan, I'd go berserk if so many people were within such a close range to me every single day. We did see some people carrying food from the royal kitchens to the palace, though... At the palace, there was a wayang kulit show, which we watched for awhile (it's also popular in Malaysia, though I've never sat down to watch an actual show)
Wayang Kulit at the Sultan's Palace
There was a museum connected to the palace depicting the life of the previous Sultan. Based on the exhibit about his life, he seems to have been one of those genuinely nice people, and is/was well loved by everyone. It's kind of hard to explain, but that's how you feel as you walk through the different stages of his life via photos, articles and some real stuff he used, such as clothes and equipment. It is a well known fact that the term Sultan indicates a Muslim ruler, and so it is, however, it is interesting to note, that despite the fact, some of the architecture around the palace grounds itself is of Hindu/Buddhist origin, for instance the statues that symbolise guardians. Later on, we went ahead to the private pool of the Sultan, not to swim , but to just see the architecture I guess - part of the itenerary (not so private anymore, I guess)

Later on it was lunch, at one of the places outside the silver factory. Lunch was pretty good this time, thank goodness! And after that we went into the silver factory, where they looked for someone who could speak in English (it wasn't exactly necessary either as we can understand their lingo to a certain extent, although their first question was did we speak Japanese? Hehehe...) The English speaking silver girl took us around and explained some of the processes involved in silver making and most importantly, how a certain local fruit can be used to clean tarnished silver. (Honestly, I've forgotten most of the details here. Genius didn't bother to document stuff later that night, not realising that details can go missing with time!)

As the afternoon shifted to evening, we found ourselves in the grounds of Prambanan, an ancient Hindu temple complex which was also built when modern machinery were yet to exist. While the complex was open to all visitors, many of the temples themselves were off-limits due to them being feared unstable after a certain earthquake in the area in 2006. In fact, a much older earthquake had reduced the temples to ruins, and they were then reconstructed. But many of the stones were either taken away for people's personal collection (and even construction) while many more couldn't be put back together because no one could figure out where they went. (All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again)

The view of (almost) the whole complex. On the right and left are the scattered stones which couldn't be placed together again after a (much older) earthquake

We ended the day with some shopping before dinner. Our initial plan of shopping at Malioboro street was discarded as we were too tired- being up and about since 4 am (really!), we were not really in the mood for bargaining, and our guide asking us to be careful seeing that the street boasted of pick pockets with varying degrees of skill. Instead, we shopped at an indoor shoplot where prices were fixed (we're not really into bargaining, to begin with) and was probably safer despite being crowded. So was Malioboro street, actually.

We had dinner at another restaurant recommended by users of Trip Advisor, which was lovely too. And then it was back to the hotel for packing, some sleeping and catching the flight out before sunrise the next morning.

Other posts in the series:
Food and Volcanoes
Sunrise at Borobudur

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Short and Pointless

Am I being evil when the first response that comes to mind when someone 'says' that they have a neck ache is "Serves you right?"

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Yogyakarta - Sunrise at Borobudur

Evil (a song which sometimes serves as an alarm, and has the tendency to cause a certain degree of alarm, no doubt) woke me up at the unearthly hour of 3 in the morning. As I tried to organise my thoughts (where was I?, why is my alarm set at 3 freaking am?, why is it so bloody cold?), it finally hit me... I was going to see the sun rise from Borobudur!

We left the hotel premises at about 4 am, with our breakfast boxes and backpacks, Sleep deprived and tired for some reason, we nodded off comfortably as our van took us to our destination, with our poor guide trying to make some conversation with some trivia about Borobudur, where we would occasionally respond with an 'ok'. Yes, we are terrible people, but we live in the region and actually know the general stuff about Borobudur because we all read. A lot.

We finally reached our destination and were given a torchlight each to navigate up the 'stairs' to the top of Borobudur right before dawn. It was dark and crowded - everyone wants to see the sun rise up from Borobudur, I guess. You could hear muffled conversation and some groaning from some people as their unaccustomed muscles protested against the climb where the stairs were almost knee high. We picked a spot near the top overlooking the area below, adjusted our camera settings, took some photos in the dark (where we all looked a tad bit mysterious and ghostly) and waited for the sun to rise.

A less than enthusiastic sunrise

The sun did rise, but a little less enthusiastically as it hid behind the clouds, secretly laughing at us for thinking that we'd get a good sunrise, I presume. As it got brighter, we went to each level to look at the carvings in granite which tell the story of the birth of Buddhism. When you look at it, you do wonder how the people from the olden days (9th century!!), without the aid of cranes and modern machinery could build something so majestic looking. And the time and effort it would have taken for them to carve all the stories into stone. It's simply amazing. We got down to the base later in the morning, had a late breakfast (from our box) and some coffee and some local cakes. For some reason, travelling gives you an excellent appetite!
The carvings on the stone

An almost complete sideview of Borobudur

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Baby in the Bin, and Murder

The courtroom seemed divided. To one side were a number of young people, most of them nervously biting their fingers as the judge was quietly deliberating the situation. On another side, several old religious looking men sat, looking smugly at each other. It was the first ever case of it's kind to be tried in court.

The judge got up and addressed the courtroom. "The defendant is found guilty"

The defendant looked up, and then stood, albeit unsteadily, overwrought with emotion. She thought to herself, "I'm going to die because the people who knew better, the people who were supposed to guide me, pretended that sex didn't exist"

Two weeks later, early in the morning, she was ushered out, and prepared for her impending hanging. As her head was covered with the thick, black, heavy cloth in the silence, it occurred to her that she and her baby were the cats that curiosity killed.

6 Months Ago

She certainly didn't expect it to be so wrinkled, red and ugly. It made a small sound as it tried to make itself more comfortable in the white blanket it was wrapped in. She closed her eyes, brushed her lips carefully against it's forehead and wrapped the white blanket even tighter around it.

"It's now or never" she thought, holding back tears. The baby in the blanket was after all her baby, born just over 6 hours ago, with the help of her closest friend, wikipedia and a very frantic boyfriend who fainted after hearing her screams of pain. She gathered the baby and her things and walked carefully out of the school hallway. No one knew what had happened, it being a Sunday. Her secret was safe.

She had picked the decorative fruit basket from the teacher's lounge area, put in several blankets and she now carried the poor, red, ugly thing in it. She had targeted a house two streets away from the school, hoping they'd take her baby and give it a proper life, one that she could never give, considering who she was and what she was doing now.

She could have gone to her parents, but they would have turned her out for bringing shame to the family. Good kids didn't go and have babies without being married first was their school of thought. The education system would have kicked her out of school, religious creeps would have labelled her a sinner. Really, she had nowhere to turn to, except for her close friend and the guy who got her pregnant, but they were as helpless as her. And so, they decided that she'd have the baby in secret, place it in front of #37, ring the doorbell and run. She said she needed to do it herself, and be left alone.

Alas, neither she nor her friends knew that #37 had been empty for the past few days. They were on a vacation for a week, and were surprised to find a baby, carefully wrapped up, but dead lying in a basket outside their house. They reported it to the police. Within a few weeks, with the magic of DNA testing, they had identified the mother of the baby. She was in the lab when they came and arrested her, to the horror of her classmates. She followed the cops out quietly, recalling articles in newspapers mentioning the possibility of charging parents who abandoned their babies with murder. She thought they'd never do it, but here she was, being charged for the very same thing the whole country had opposed against.



Note: The story above is a fictionalised version of the baby dumping scenario in the country. About two weeks ago, the cabinet suggested that baby dumping be tantamount to murder. While no baby deserves to die in any way whatsoever, charging the parents for murder will not possibly nip the problem in the bud. Kids in schools are not exposed to proper sex education, mostly learning things off friends (who are sometimes equally blur) Pregnant teens are removed from the school system, and are looked upon by the society as immoral and a possible bad influence, and then there's also some religious issues which I will refrain from touching because it is not my place to do so - hence their need to hide the evidence of ever having a baby. My knowledge of the courtroom scene is minimal, so I don't really know what the judge says, and neither do I know what the hangman says - I can't seem to research it online, and asking lawyer friends was just too embarrassing.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Most Intimidating Interview - On the Radio

We're slowly making our way to the end of August, and in less than a week, the nation once again celebrates Independence Day for the 53rd time. As usual, I was listening to the radio on the way to work this morning, and to mark the celebrations, they had a new special segment interviewing powerful and influential women of Malaysia (or Malaya) from the days gone by - mostly from the time right after independence. Today, they interviewed the very first woman ambassador.

Now, I've always heard this particular radio dj interview people in the mornings, and I'd say she prepares herself quite well, in the sense that she doesn't ask stupid questions, and is able to handle any topics they're discussing about either if it's regarding business, politics or any other current issue. I do find her voice a wee bit annoying, though... just a wee bit.

The person interviewed this morning (to be known as PIM hereafter), however, was a totally different kettle of fish. I suppose growing up at a time when things were different, she had a totally different way of viewing things from the dj, from her priorities, how she viewed the nation's political system at that time,etc. She answered questions with a certain degree of vehemence, and peppered her interview with subtle sarcasm and mild intimidation and somewhat mocking, quietly making us, the listeners perceive the dj as an ignorant young woman! There was this time when the dj asked her about her opinion on the racial riots of 1969, and PIM  emphasised on the importance of the Rukun Negara (loosely translated as the Nation's Tenets), and turned to ask the dj if she knew what the tenets were. (Naturally, I imagined her turning towards the dj in slow motion)

The dj, in good humour, replied that they were printed at the back of exercise books used by school kids. The silence was so thick that you could hear the radio static. PIM asked her again if she could recite them then and there. The dj gave a weak laugh, indicating defeat. Funny really, because I've always imagined that it was the dj who would be the witty/sarcastic/evil one who had the power to make the interviewee squirm in their seats.

It kind of makes me wonder how I would handle such a situation, to be put down so many times, quietly and quickly that way. It was as though PIM was a trained assassin and the dj was the unwitting victim. The request to recite the tenets was certainly not the first and definitely not the last either. I tried recalling the tenets later in the morning after listening to the show,  and surprisingly, I could. I suppose all those years in school reciting the tenets during assembly really drilled them firmly into my long term memory. However, had I been in the dj's shoes at that point, I'd have forgotten them due to frayed nerves!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Are You OK, Karaoke?

If there was anyone who could admit knowing me well enough, they'd certainly corroborate to the fact of me admitting that I'd try anything once. Naturally, when I say anything, it refers to anything that I wouldn't mind doing, and perhaps the occasional dare like trying to put off fire with my fingers. And that is precisely how I found myself *agreeing to go for a karaoke session with a bunch of friends from work (from a different department from me), most of whom I've only dealt with regarding work matters before this despite my loner-like tendencies.

Now, I've always imagined local karaoke sessions to be the type where middle aged Chinamen (mostly businessmen) would sing at the top of their lungs to Chinese songs from the 70's or 80's, while discussing business over food and drinks, a place where a someone of my **demographics would never be caught in, but there I was, among a few early twenty somethings right up to a few early thirty somethings, singing, eating and laughing and actually having a much better time than I had initially imagined!

One of the songs I picked:


On to more new things now, I guess. 

* Funny how I got invited, really... some poisonous gas escaped from a neighbouring company one day in mid July which had our whole company packed into the carpark/main building, and I had decided to socialise a bit, ended up talking to one of the interns based in another department, towards the end, he mentioned karaoke, I think I said 'cool!', and about half a month later, he and his department people plan a karaoke outing, and I get invited as well!

**The truth is, I don't really fit in anywhere... or at least I'm not exactly sure where I fit in. According to a another friend from work, I should be a proud owner of an i-Phone (based on his view of my demographics), which I'm not.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Hills are Alive...

...with the sound of people.

Over the past half month or so, my sister and I have been unsystematically climbing hills nearby. I suppose these are what you could call baby steps in preparation for the gargantuan task of someday climbing Mt. Kinabalu, the highest peak in the country. We have currently covered two hills so far, one called Broga, and another called Bukit Gasing,

Broga Hill

Situated just a little over an hour away from our home (if you don't lose your way, that is), Broga seems to be a very popular hill among the locals, with people starting to trek up as early as 6 am while it is still dark to catch a glimpse of the sunrise. Good intentions, no doubt, but unless you made a deal with the clouds, there's no guarantee that you're gonna get the sunrise you want.

The cousins, sister and I reached the foot of the hills slightly before sunrise, much later than we had planned as I had missed two (2!) turnings on our way (trust me, when the GPS asks you to go straight on a road that splits into three, it can only mean trouble). I also had a bathroom emergency because I had taken some coffee in the morning, and had to end up peeing in a hole in the ground in a stand alone wooden hut, in the middle of nowhere while my three lovely companions shined their torchlights through the top of the door so that I could see what I was doing. Lesson learned: No coffee before hiking.

(The picture was taken later in the day on our way down when it was brighter and clearer - and yes, this was the bathroom. At least I didn't have to pee in the bushes!)

 There were many people going up the hill, it being Saturday I suppose. It kind of reminded me of ants slowly making their way to the source of food. We joined in the bandwagon,  making our way among the crowd. Naturally there were some slippery places and at times you'd wonder what would happen if you fell down one of those gorges.


There were quite a number of seasoned climbers as well, as some of them were impatiently climbing up the hill instead of taking in the fresh air and the beauty surrounding them.

Broga has four peaks, all grassy, and as you make your way, you get to see the bottom of the hill below, and parts of the surrounding town. The climb is somewhat quite safe (despite the incline) although it can be a bit scary because there really isn't much you can hold on to, since it has grass instead of trees. My sister actually got a splinter in her finger when she accidentally grabbed some lalang at a certain point. It took us awhile but we finally managed to reach the final peak, after surpassing through a narrow crevice between two boulders and hauling ourselves up the boulder. (The sister helped pull me up a bit here) 


One of the pictures capturing the view below the hill


The grass at the sides of the hill. There seems to be a path leading us up the hill, and although it looks friendly, it wasn't as easy to climb as we initially thought.



A picture of a dead tree on one of the peaks.

The boulder before the final peak. It was too crowded, so I had no choice but to put up pictures of other people in it! (I'd have preferred it sans people, naturally)

The climb felt pretty good, and despite it being merely 400 metres above sea level, reaching the peak is exhilarating and  gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Help! The Vampires are Gonna Run Lose

* "Use less garlic, there's no such thing as vampires" says a wise man, to the public via the local newspaper. No points for guessing that said wise man is a politician. Ahem.


So apparently, the uncertain weather conditions in China has caused a massive reduction in the export of garlic, and while the demand remains the same (actually the demand has probably increased with it being Ramadan and all now where people are busy making extra stuff for the breaking of fast every evening, etc) which has led to an incredible increase in the price of garlic. And after all that, the only thing a hapless politician can advice is for us to use less garlic in our cooking. How constructive and forward thinking.

Now, even with the limited knowledge of economics I have, I understand that there is probably no way that we can reduce the price of garlic, but you'd think that the Minister for Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism would have something better to say or not say anything at all. In fact, his advice of using less garlic is probably what most consumers would be doing with their own free will as a temporary countermeasure until a better solution is found - such as searching for a different source of garlic. A short search on google shows that garlic is also grown  elsewhere around the world, but not as much as China, of course, But still, that's worth a try, eh?

So for now, people are going to suffer from slightly tasteless food, and loss of blood due to vampires. :D

* Not his exact words ;)