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