Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year in Retrospect - 2011

Long ago, I once told an old friend of mine that tradition is an inconvenience. At that time we were talking about the chronology of a Tamil wedding, which I believe inconveniences the bride big time. Right now, I'm beginning to feel that this tradition of recapping the end of the year before the year ends is a big inconvenience, because part of me is just too lazy too do it, and yet another part of me insists that I should do it, just for the sake of making sure that 2012 is all fresh and new. Weird? Yeah.

2011 must have been one of the shortest years ever - if that's even possible. On the very first day of the year, I sat down and wrote a story called "The Torch of Time" which describes how the years sprint and how they do that on purpose to make us feel as though our lives just fly past us without a pause. I wrote and edited the 800 words under 4 hours and duly submitted it. One and a half months later, the editor of the paper e-mailed me and told me that the story had been published. First cool thing of the year, I got a story published in a local paper. 

Other personal things that happened in 2011 worth mentioning:

1. The first ever family trip out of the country to Sri Lanka (will be blogged about - soon, I hope)
2. I fractured a bone (the very first bone in the history of my existence)
3. Had a two week long vacation (without much objection from the bosses, oh wow) to New Zealand and Australia (also needs to be blogged about - at least I took notes here)
4. Had the worst haircut ever 
5. This blog (with the old url) got discovered by people that shouldn't have any business discovering it, leading to panic and I almost deleted it.
6.  One grey hair - safely removed now, so all is good.
7.  Didn't have any disastrous incidents of falling sick (thanks to hand sanitizers, no doubt)
8. The laptop is probably dying, but instead of getting a new laptop, I got myself a tablet. The laptop can wait. Meanwhile, I'm transferring my stuff to an external hard drive.
9. Made friends with my sisters friends (3 of them who are all 5 years younger than me)
10. Did one 'bucket list' must dos
11. Got my second story published in the same paper. Either they like what I write or there aren't enough contributors (Personally, I'd like to say the former, but I believe by the time the second story got published, it was due to the latter)
12. Still book crazy. 
13. Some deaths of people I know

(Not too bad if judged by the list, but I guess, just like every year, we have the highs and lows. I know for a fact that I have been overworked since September, with a brief return of the dreaded insomnia, and I know I disliked July, but all these were work related)

The World
On the whole, while my list above does seem to indicate that 2011 has been a rather nice year to me, it wasn't so for the world in general. The world, as we see it has been shocked by earthquakes, tsunamis and storms, and floods, and somehow, it seems even worse this year, although most people still remember the horrors of the boxing day tsunami of 2006. 

This was also a shocking year for the economy and politics. We had countries declared bankrupt, and even in the local front, the country's debt is significant enough to make us worried of a similar fate. America, the country *we all secretly admired for their solidness in any given situation seems to be not as solid as we thought they were. The Arab spring happened, old, famous leaders were ousted and went into hiding and got killed. Osama Laden (the reason behind a war I personally find pointless) died.

On the local front
In July, some Malaysians took to the streets to demand fair and free elections and were met with water cannons and tear gas canisters instead. One man died in this. A solitary elderly lady (known as Annie) marched on her own, in her water cannoned wet t-shirt, and was looked upon as an exemplary citizen who knew when  it was time to stand for their rights. Corruption type scandals were all over the news, contributing to a few creative headlines.

The country also probably faced one of the most 'race and religious intolerant' years ever, what with the newspapers giving face to a certain man named **IbraahimmAlliTheFrog who spews the biggest amount of racist rubbish a man ever can. It's entertaining, nevertheless. Then there was the issue with the Malay Language Bible, the raid during a dinner because there were rumours of proselytisation, etc. 

We also saw a massive heatwave in July, followed by crazy rains, flash floods and non-flash floods involving people to be put in flood relief centres. 

So, that's it, a short review of the year that was -2011. In terms of personal stuff, it seems like a pretty good year, and for personal reasons, I'd give the year a 7/10.
* Just a personal opinion.
**Name purposely disguised to prevent people who stupidly search for him ending up on this blog

Monday, December 26, 2011

Spreading the Word

I was browsing through John Ling's blog just now and found out that his publishing company is helping out a girl suffering from neurofibromatosis, a disease currently without a cure.

What they are doing is selling her e-book (I'm Not Sick, Just A Bit Unwell) on Amazon, and the proceeds (all of them) go to her surgery, and this being their first release and all. The book is free for download until boxing day (yes, this post is out a bit late) I actually figured I'd purchase it but just my luck that Kindle and Malaysia do not have a good relationship with each other.

Her website is here: http://www.yvonnefoong.com/

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Oh, Festivals!

It's been a long, long week at work. Insane is the only way I can describe December (and the number of posts in December, and how delayed I am in commenting and answering comments on the blog can attest to that). What made it all worse is people mentioning long breaks, and about how December is a pretty easy going month and all while it was the complete opposite for those of us who work in my place.  

But then, it's Saturday now, and all the effort we put in during the last two weeks means that at least Sunday and Monday should be relatively easy going and peaceful. Fingers crossed. 

With that, I figured I should join in the bandwagon and wish everyone a happy (insert name of appropriate festival here)

List of festivals:
i. *Festivus (Dec 23)
ii. Hanukkah (Dec 20 - 28)
iii. Christmas (Dec 25)
iv. New Year (Jan 1)
v. Anything I missed out

*Remembered this from a gchat conversation with a friend last year

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Optimist (Not)

Note: A possibly pointless post ahead. 

There was a time when I used to be an optimist. These days, whatever optimism I have seems to be laced with a certain degree of cynicism. I do not know how (or even when) this happened.

About two months ago, I met up with someone I knew from university. I haven't spoken to him since 2000 (I think), so we had a lot to catch up on, mostly working our way from the last time we spoke to what we're doing now, and in the few hours we hung out that day, there was one very obvious thing about him that stood above all others. His optimism/positivity.

This made me realise that I was a bit too cynical for my own good, and it was even worse when I started paying attention to his status updates on Facebook. The optimism just oozed out and made a grab for you with invisible fingers. 

So, about two weeks ago, I decided to inject a bit of optimism (have positive thoughts) to my life instead. I didn't know how to make such a big change at first, so I figured that I'd just stop complaining about things that I usually complain about. Was I on my way to being a better, less cynical person?

My 'optimism' lasted for a week and a half before I succumbed to whatever it is I had succumbed to that Thursday. I was so angry that I wanted to write "Arghhh" as a status update on FB, instead, in an attempt to make it a bit more positive, I wrote:

"The world is just awesome. Arghhh."

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Bud is Back Meme

Courtesy of Sunday Stealing

The Bud is Back Meme

Every now and then, the narcissist in the blogger decides to surface and tell all and sundry about themselves. While yours truly is not really willing to divulge everything about herself (real name for one), she happens to like talking about her blog. A lot. She saw this meme, liked it and decided to honour it by stealing it. After all, that is what Sunday Stealing is all about!

1. Why did you sign up for writing your blog?
It happened on a whim - I had stories to tell, and the blog kind of took them in without telling me that I'm crazy.

2. Why did you choose your blog's name? What does it mean?
You know how sometimes when you convince yourself enough about something, it may just come true? The same goes for the name of this blog. According to the free dictionary, raconteur means : One who tells stories and anecdotes with skill and wit. Someday, I hope that the blog will live up to it's name :)

3. Do you ever had another blog?
(Have you ever had another blog? Did you ever have another blog?)
Yes. Quite a few actually.
a) The old one that got deleted by the host :(
b) A rather sluggish fitness blog
c) Another old deleted blog a few of us wrote in (this was cool because the authors were from three different continents - Africa, Europe and Asia)
d) A hidden blog in which part of a novel I was working on sits quietly. 

4. What do you do online when you're not on your blog?
Click links on wikipedia, stalk friends on Facebook, send e-mails, chat with some friends, read news, play some random point and click games...

5. How about when you're not on the computer?

Then it means I'm reading something

6. What do you wish people who read your blog knew about you?
I think the posts speak for themselves. I can't even write a proper 'about me' section, so I guess there's really nothing much tell anyway. I wouldn't mind anyone asking me any question that they'd want to know about, though :D

7. What is your favorite community in the blogosphere?

Err... are there communities?

8. What is your philosophy on your blog layout?
Clean and simple, although I have been through phases where complex layouts with lots of details and (ahem) wild colours ruled the day. Dark font, preferably MS Trebuchet on a light background is a must. Other than that, anything goes.

9. Tell me about your picture you use to represent you on your blog.
 My superhero-esque persona, Terra Shield - taken from the picture used by Blogthings when you answer the quiz:









10. Pick 3 random blogs from your blogroll and tell us about them.
       i. It's cruel to pick just three when you have so many on the blogroll AND you like all of them
       ii. I break meme rules all the time, so I'll tell the different reasons I read the blogs on the blogroll instead
           a) They're fun to read because they depict mostly ordinary lives in an interesting way
           b) They tell interesting stories about people you'd never know about
           c) You get to know about how they live in their respective countries, what they do everyday and things that interest them
           d) They deal with heavier issues I have interest in but am too lazy to blog about

11. What features do you think your blog should have that it doesn't currently?
       Probably "Pages" but I just don't have the time to revamp the whole blog or as I mentioned above, to write a decent 'about me' post

12. What do you consider the 10 most "telling" interests that we would infer from your blog persona?
      i. I love to procrastinate (I even have a label for it)
     ii. I travelled quite a bit the last year
    iii. I love bad jokes
    iv. I love to draw not so good pictures and pass them off as artwork on this blog
     v. I also write what I would call "Bad Poetry" - This is my favourite 
    vi. I complain a lot
   vii. I write the occasional review on books, movies and music, but it's not the best thing I do
   viii. Things which require you to have a twisted funny bone
    ix. OMG! My blog persona has no personality
     x. Errrr...

13. Do you have any unique interests that you have never shared before? What are they? 
Most of my interests have been mentioned throughout the years spent blogging (and I've been around for quite awhile now), so probably not. If it's something I don't mind talking about, then it will be here.

14. The best thing about blogging is all of the friends that you make, Beside from those folks, do you think your blog has fans?
I don't know... there might have been one or two or even three throughout the lifespan of the blog. The thing is, blogging is probably dying a slow death no thanks to the new media out there which people use to express themselves, so having anyone read and comment is already awesome enough. 

15. What's your current obsession? What about it captures your imagination?
Nothing at the moment. My imagination is doomed. 

16. What are you glad you did but haven't really had a chance to post about?
Earlier this year, I had one of my 'bucket list' wishes achieved. I've written about it, but haven't completed it yet.

17. How many people that first became a blog friend, have you met face to face?
Well, this person used to read my blog but didn't have a blog on their own. If this counts, then one, if not, then none 

18. What don't you talk about here, either because it's too personal or because you don't have the energy?
I stopped talking about work-related woes earlier this year. I hardly mention the truly personal aspects of my life.

19. What's a question that you'd love to answer?
I don't know...

20. Have you ever lost a blogging friendship and regretted it?
People who became friends through blogging mostly ended up being friends on Facebook instead once they quit/slowed down in blogging, so the answer is no.

21. Have you ever lost a blogging friendship and thought, “Was that overdue!”
Gosh, no!

Feel free to 'steal' this and post it on your own blogs if you're into stuff like this :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Eclipsed by Clouds

The thing about catching snippets of news on the radio is that you usually only catch the end of the news, mostly after you've heard a word or two that catches your interest. Yesterday evening, those few words were eclipse, Malaysia and seven-ish pm. Of course there were other words such as *climate change to which I raised my eyebrows to an invisible audience as I was driving alone at that time.

As eclipses excite me as much as prom night excites a high-schooler, I thought to myself that I will be catching the eclipse - after all it was a Saturday evening, and I had no plans, and I felt a pang of regret when I remembered that I had not bought a DSLR camera as I had planned to earlier (My carefully honed procrastination skills knows no boundaries, ha ha)

How part of the eclipse might have looked from some part of the world - 'artist's' (snort) impression
Sometimes plans have plans of their own. With an overcast sky (from 3 pm right up to the time when I started this post - **9:15 pm), the moon was nowhere to be seen, and obviously that meant that the eclipse was nowhere in sight as well. Undeterred, I figured I might as well just draw my own eclipse. (see picture above)

Notes:
* "Climate change" - I'm sure she meant to say something alongside clear skies
**According to wikipedia, this eclipse can only be seen in Malaysian skies right after sunset, so the final view at 9:15 pm was actually only wishful thinking.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Claims to Spiffy Titles

Otherwise known as why you shouldn't delay posting blog posts when you think you've got a good title for it.

It all started with a conversation with my aunt - concerning the brain drain issue plaguing our country. I will not go into the details of the conversation because it's irrelevant to the topic at hand, but we somehow started talking about maids (domestic help) - don't ask me how the conversation took this path, because I can't remember. All I can remember is that when I got back home, I opened Blogger, and typed out at the title box: Maid in Malaysia (Yes, it is unoriginal - no thanks to Maid in Manhattan :p)

I never finished started the post.

A few weeks later, which is today, as I drive home from work listening to the one and only radio station I ever listen to, what do the radio deejays talk about? Maids (and the issue with Indonesia banning their women from working here due to several incidents) And what do they decide to name this particular 'episode'? You guessed it - Maid in Malaysia. With this, that post of mine is forever doomed to live in the realm of the unpublished unless I can come up with another title (and some err... content as well)

The only thing I discovered out of this issue? At least I can pass off as being as creative in coming up with titles as the producer of a radio talk show. ;)


Saturday, December 03, 2011

How To Save the World

Ahem. It's how to save your blog actually, from whatever it is that may attack it someday.

Some time ago, an old blog of mine got deleted by whoever was hosting it - and, they didn't even bother informing me. I whined about it in a post, and a comment left by Secret Agent Woman got me thinking. It was time to back up this blog too, although Blogger is currently hosted by Google - a huge company if there ever was one. But like everything else in this time and age, you just never know what is going to happen, and no one has guaranteed that your blog is going to be there forever, and what will become of the posts you slaved over the years - spelling mistakes and all?

After listening to the podcast in the link below last week, the urge to backup is now stronger than ever.


These are a few methods I use:

Save the Blog!
1. Blogger's backup system. (found via blogger buzz)

Blogger has it's very own system in which you can download and backup whatever you've written. This is the same function you can use if you intend to export your blog elsewhere. The only problem I see with this is the fact that it's an XML file, and my lack of knowledge on it makes me worry if it will be retrievable if blogs or blog hosts completely vanish from the face of the earth. However, this step is simple enough to be done as it only involves a click of "Settings" followed by "Other" and "Export Blog" They kindly inform you that this action does not delete the blog, and after you click the "Download Blog" button, all you have to do is wait for a few minutes and hey presto, the XML file is all safe and sound in your own hard drive. 

Pros: Easy one click steps, enables moving between bloghosts, full tutorial is available on Blogger Buzz
Cons: You need to export blog from time to time to update it from when you last downloaded it, it's in XML format so you can't really see it

2. E-mail (Found via google search)

Also another built in blogger feature.
Similar to export, this step also involves a few easy clicks. Go to "Settings", then "Mobile and e-mail" and in the box which says email posts to? type in the e-mail address you want your posts sent to. 

Pros: The moment you hit publish, the blog post gets sent to the e-mail address specified, with pictures, captions and formatting intact, you do not need a blog to read this.
Cons: If you post a lot, then your e-mail add will be flooded with the posts - but you can always create a folder for this, or create a specific e-mail just for your blog posts

3. Old manual backup.

I used to do this for a short while, where my posts were actually typed in notepad before I transported them to blogger. But then, after posting, I actually deleted most of the posts due to space constraints. I want to strangle myself.

Pros: Notepad format - so you don't even need to be online for this, small file size - until their quantity reaches a crazy number
Cons: Only words - no pictures saved

Secret Agent Woman's backup plan: 
Use "Blog to Book" to enable your posts to be compiled into lovely books for posterity. There are a few websites which have this service. 
Pros: You get a book in your hands- what can be better than that?
Cons: Can't think of any

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Boat Ride in Kuala Sepetang (aka Part 5)

continued from here

How on earth do you make a three day trip stretch to 5 posts and you're still only on your second day? Easy.

Firstly, make sure that you had your trip more than a year ago.

Secondly, because you have forgotten most of what you did (unless you took notes, which you didn't because your initial plan was to actually complete the write-up as soon as possible), you try recalling what you did by looking back at your photos.

Thirdly, because pictures scream a thousand words than actual thousand words do, you end up posting pictures (after cutting yourself out of it, or putting a black box on your face first - if you're in it) and caption them with not so funny captions that they are sufficient to tell everyone about what you did or how your trip went.

Fourthly, because the posts are loaded with pictures instead of words, when you preview them , they tend to look extra lengthy, and you don't want that because your aim is to actually share your experience with your friends who read them (and everyone knows that some lengthy posts (especially when accompanied by photos) may lead to skipped parts), and therefore you start splitting the posts.

But I digress (a lot)

Kuala Sepetang - A Boat Ride, Lifestyle and Other Things

View of one of the fishing boats at the village

The boat ride

After the mangrove park, we decided that we'd take the boat ride around the Kuala Sepetang area. There are a few different boat rides available, but we decided to take the one hour boat ride that goes down around the riverside past the fishing villages and the mangrove forests.

For those who are interested, Kuala Sepetang is also another place that is steeped in history. This is where the very first railway line was built (to Taiping) in Peninsular Malaysia, back in 1885. These days, Kuala Sepetang is known as a fishing village where boats are more abundant than cars. As we took the boat ride, the guy giving us the tour told us that there was absolutely nothing to do on the fishing village other than house the fishermen and their families. Anything you wanted to do elsewhere, you had had to wait for one of the boat taxis to take you out to the mainland. Just as our boat guy was telling us this, we saw a family, dressed up for the Saturday evening, excitedly waiting for one of the boat taxis to take them so that they could have a day out like anyone else. I'm sure they are pretty happy with their lives (well, they looked happy as the breeze blew at them while waiting), but it makes you realise how terrible people can be the more they have. Take those of us who live in towns, where we complain even about the slightest discomfort that disrupts our busy schedules. Sigh.

Another item of interest mentioned by the boat guy is that due to the isolated nature of the fishing village, practically every single house carries a satellite dish which has over 500 channels from all over the world, which somehow compensates them having nothing much to do (at least that was the impression I got from the boat guy), and the best part - the satellite dish is apparently illegal elsewhere in the country! Other than the fishing village we got to see an eagle and a few monkeys by the mangrove.

After the boat ride, we drove back all the way back to Taiping town in order to grab some dinner. This time we had some Chinese food, which as expected was delicious. The night ended here as we were all very exhausted and ended up sleeping quite early.

Monday, November 28, 2011

JUST ANOTHER RANDOM POST

1. Why is it that some people always manage to say things that rub you the wrong way in almost every conversation you have with them, although deep down inside you kind of know that they don't mean to be mean to you?

2. I recently noticed that some friends at work have started to refer to me as an English walking dictionary/grammar book. It's strange yet fascinating as my 'knowledge' on grammar is basically based on what I usually refer to as 'it sounds right, so I'll use that'

3. Football (or soccer if you're American) is the only thing that unites the Malaysian people. Politics just do the total opposite.

4. I've been using glasses since I was 7, and while deep down inside I was a nerd to the core, I hid it as best as I could by getting non-nerdy glasses, and using contact lenses whenever I went out with friends, although they all knew I was a nerd. I checked my eyes again recently (the yearly one) and now I've decided to embrace my nerdiness with frames that emphasise nerdiness.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

And Then There Was One

They never sent a warning beforehand although they had our e-mail addresses.

One day everything was there, intact, and the next day everything had suddenly disappeared. All those words, all the friends, and all those memories. 

Long before Facebook was shoved in my face by a close friend back in September 2007 in which I rather reluctantly embraced it, I belonged to a similar social networking group called Friendster, where I was reunited with a few old friends, some who go back way into the crazy days of pig-tailed childhood (one of them, at least - my hair was always kept short as a child) Such good times. A little later into the social networking bandwagon, they came out with a feature known as Friendster Blogs. As I only had a miserable and erratic dial up connection back then (2005), knowledge about what the internet had to offer was rather limited, so I had no idea that Blogger (then known as Blogspot? - apparently not) even existed. 

I had lots of stories to tell back then, and Friendster Blogs provided the perfect avenue for it. I typed out and posted my very first post at exactly 10:22 pm on April 11, 2005, which told one of the many silly stories I had shelved up in my mind. That blog led a rather active albeit private life until April of 2008, when I decided to revert my 2 and a half readers from there to this blog, which by then already had a life of it's own. It led a rather quiet life after that, especially since Facebook gained popularity and Friendster took a backseat, although I did visit it occasionally.

A few months ago, they revamped the whole of Friendster from a social networking site to a site that caters to games. I don't have anything against games, but did they have to delete everything? I don't care too much about the profile itself, but the blog was something I truly cared about. It had a story of my late grandfather, some old stories from the mad days of university life to some stories when I first started working and a whole lot of idiotic observations on life (Due to the 2.5 readers there, I was prone to even more silliness there than I am here, plus I was also younger back then. Duh!)

It saddens me that all those stories I wrote back then are now in an online graveyard somewhere, and how I was not able to rescue them on time. While I have not exactly forgotten the incidents or the stories, recreating them is just not possible.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tell Me Why I Don't Like Boys

First of all, they are confusing, because they are probably a confused lot themselves. And due to their tendency to be confusing, they end up causing a whole lot of confusion!

Juvenile as it seems, and unlikely as it is to have a thirty-something lamenting about something like this, here I am.

P.S: Nope, this is not one of those girls vs boys posts, I just had the need to let this out due to some personal reasons and I had nowhere else to put it.

PPS: Title of the post modified from the lyrics to the song "I don't like Mondays" by Boomtown Rats.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve

continued from here:
http://raconteuresquescribblings.blogspot.com/2011/11/getaway-to-wettest-town-in-malaysia.html

Kuala Sepetang Mangrove Park

aka Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve

After the jaunt in the museum, where we took a few *illegal photos (see part 3), we drove on towards the mangrove forest, missing the entrance several times before we finally found it - yes, even with the GPS because we had the wrong name - don't ask. Entry was free, and so was parking. Again!

The forest reserve is an educational park of sorts, peppered with signboards indicating the different flora (and fauna - but fauna are a bit harder to spot) you could find around you, a platform you could walk on so that the mud didn't damage your footwear, but unless you have enough foresight to think of mosquitoes, without bug repellent, you'd be contributing to a free blood festival for said mosquitoes. You can also choose to stay there overnight if that is your thing - there are chalets there which you can rent, and I think they are pretty cheap.

Besides being a place where you'd gain knowledge on mangrove forests and their usefulness in protecting our inland from erosion, you'd also see people jogging there - in fact, there was one particularly loud jogger running around - you could hear his footsteps on the boardwalk before you saw him, so you could get ready to make way for him to pass you. In the time it took us to cover the whole area, he had jogged past us at least three times. 


One of the many signboards
This tree predates the country's independence. So do my parents, actually. But still....
The platform/boardwalk

*we tried to blend in with the exhibits, and then realised that the museum had cameras all around watching our every move. It's a wonder that no one kicked us out.

To be continued....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Operasi Payung

Umbrellas doing a waltz of their own
There is a place where government officials carrying colourful umbrellas would waltz around to offer to walk petrified looking students stuck in the rain (one official per student) to their examination centres. No, I have not watched any musicals in awhile, but come on, what else are you supposed to imagine when you hear the words 'Operasi Payung' (Operation Umbrella?) on an otherwise mundane Monday?

For some strange reason, the rainy season (yes, although it does rain most of the time, there ARE periods with even more rain than usual, especially around the east coast where it floods like crazy) always seems to coincide with the SPM (equivalent to O-levels) examination so much so that at one point while I was still in school the government decided to tackle the problem by shifting the school year from January to December so that the exam season was just slightly ahead of the rainy season. That didn't work either as the rainy season seemed to have a mind of it's own and shifted to once again coincide with the exams. Finally, after a few years, the government threw in their towels in disgust and changed the school year back to January.

On Monday morning, while I was listening to the news on the radio, the newsreader announced that the exams had started, Monday being the first day and all, and how the Education Department had decided to use "Operasi Payung" (literally translated to Operation: Umbrella(!!!)) in order to help kids stranded in floods to sit for their respective papers. Now, although the newsreader said that this meant that the students would be directed to different centres to sit for their exams in case their original exam centre was flooded or their path to said centre was blocked, my imagination (as can be seen in the first paragraph of this post) had a whole different idea.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Getaway To The Wettest Town in Malaysia (Part 3: Matang Museum)

Continued from The Wettest Town Part 2

(Note: This trip happened waaaaay back in July 2010 - no kidding, but I had forgotten to continue with the write-up for so long for so may different reasons. A friend's recent trip to Taiping reminded me of the place and here is the continuation - scheduled post)

By the time we got back down to sea level after another stomach churning ride down the hill by land rover (and going down is scarier by far, I think), it was almost time for lunch. We headed out to Taiping town to our hotel to chuck our stuff, and freshen up just to head out again for lunch. This time, we picked a Thai restaurant recommended by the GPS. The food was OK, but extremely hot - good for the taste buds (mine), not too good for the digestive system (my sister's)

We drove out of Taiping after that heading towards a town called Kuala Sepetang because it was recommended by the caretaker of the bungalow up at Maxwell Hill. Kuala Sepetang was once also known as Port Weld. On the way, we stopped at the Kota Ngah Ibrahim Matang Museum

The Kota Ngah Ibrahim Matang Museum

The Matang Museum
A cannon right outside the museum
Perak is a state with lots of history. If anyone was dilligent enough to browse through the history books I read back in school, a lot of the stories originated in Perak, from the finding of tin ore there, some local skirmishes between Chinese groups to the Pangkor Treaty which eventually led to the colonisation of the state. There also has been some interesting pre-historic findings in Perak, such as the Perak Man (although that was in a different district from where we were)

Entry into the museum is free, and there is ample parking outside as well. Also free! (I'm not used to free parking, so I found this fascinating) There weren't many people there at that time, but a few of the museum's personnel were doing some work outside. The museum basically consists of the history during the tin mining era of Perak, as well as the many things the building was used for. Outside, on the other hand, they were working on a (then) recent archeological find.

The building was once Ngah Ibrahim's home, until he was exiled to Seychelles, and buried in Singapore when he died. A few years ago, his remains were brought back to Perak and he was reburied near his home.


How tin was discovered! Apparently, a pet elephant named Larut got stuck in some mud, and when he got unstuck, they found some tin ore stuck on his leg amongst the muddy mess.
Inside the museum. You've got to take your shoes off here before proceeding upstairs
A scene from the trial of the murder of J.W.W Birch, held in this very building which served as a court in it's day after being Ngah Ibrahim's house and before it was turned into a teacher's training college
Among other things the house was used for before being turned into a museum:
  • Matang College (A teacher's training college)
  • A primary school
  • Headquarters of the Japanese Army
  • Primary school (until taken over by the museum)
 To be continued in Kuala Sepetang....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Up, Up and Away

Someone got stuck in the passenger *lift the other day. Despite the 'unfortunateness' of the incident, he was rather fortunate because he had a walkie-talkie with him and could therefore call for help. Yes, the glass is always half-full, probably because it wasn't me in there, stuck in between floors in a dark and stuffy cube - alone.

I've always been worried about using that particular passenger lift due to it's uncanny ability to trap unsuspecting users time and again - sometimes right after it's been serviced. Give me the stairs anytime - plus there's always the promise of nice looking legs with the stairs. The passenger lift  gives the vibes of something lonely and desperate which will decide to force it's company on you whether ypu like it or not, until one of the maintenance guys set you free. I had a dream about it last night. (Edit: Last night was actually Tuesday - I wrote this on notepad during lunch and managed to post it up only today - Saturday)

For some strange reason, a few friends and I were on a backpacking adventure trip/competition, and the second last leg of the competition involved getting into the lift and surviving the ride without throwing up once the doors finally opened and chucked you out into the final leg. Although I've never experienced a lift lurching as you see your life pass you by, my dream self had an almost real feel of it. The lights dimmed, the sound magnified, and the whole team screamed although we knew it was just simulated and we were not really falling to our deaths. After what felt like forever it did throw us out. What a thing to dream about.

*British English. Besides, passenger lift sounds better than passenger elevator ;)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

LOST BUT NOT FOUND

My mom is a semi-firm believer in the art of fengshui, and she also happens to care way too much about her already grown up kids. When we ask her about it, she says she'll always be our mom no matter how old we get, so that was that. Due to her caring way too much attitude,  a few years ago, she got me a monkey on a horse bronze statue, a small one similar to size of a tightly balled up fist of a 5'3" female - something which fengshui believers believe will help improve our career prospects.
The Monkey on a Horse

Now, while I'm not much of a believer in anything at all - except maybe for science, I took the statue and duly placed it on my work desk. However, as time went by and I changed office, I ended up putting it and locking it inside my desk drawer.

Prior to this, I've had a few things missing from my work desk, from packets of emergency food supply such as the 3-in 1 sachets of cereal or coffee. I brushed it off as co-workers being a hungry lot who thought that since I left it on top of my desk it was theirs for the taking and didn't bother to ask because I wasn't there (I noticed things would go missing over the weekend - I once put an expired sachet of cereal on my desk, just to see what happens. That too went missing and so did a bottle of hand sanitiser)

The other day,  I was looking for my penknife, which I was certain I had put into the drawer and locked it, but I couldn't seem to find it at all, which was when I decided that I'd empty out the whole drawer and search for it. And that was when I noticed that it wasn't only my penknife which had decided to go walkabout, but so did the monkey on a horse statue, a silver-ish ring like item, and a gift from Japan a colleague had given me (the bag was still there, but the gift in it was missing)

I used to think that me losing items was always because I was careless and had misplaced them - like the time I lost this certain gadget which I had to use to detect the flow of something work related, or even if it was only my penknife that had gone missing, but after finding out that quite a number of things had actually gone missing, I'm inclined to believe that we might have a thief in our midst (the office doesn't have a lock, unfortunately) who can somehow open a locked drawer (the lock is not in perfect condition, either), or a toyol of some sort.

I'm in a dilemma of sorts now. I've discussed this with the section supervisor, who says he can't recall any of his personal items being flicked, but he once had a rather expensive piece of equipment vanish right under his nose. The box was still there, and in perfect condition, but the equipment itself was missing. I don't know if I should report this to my boss, or just suck it up and empty my drawers of anything personal (maybe I could put in a poisonous scorpion in there as well)

Edit: I didn't care about the food going missing at all... But I do draw the line at personal stuff (and expensive ones at that) as well as work equipment going missing. 

Thursday, November 03, 2011

NICE TO MEET YOU?

So, you meet someone in person for the very first time, and instead of going for the tried and tested (but incorrigible) "Nice to meet you", you can now compliment their socks while you shake hands with them. On condition that you can actually see their socks.

An excellent ice-breaker if I may say so myself. ;)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Repost: Sugarcanes and Watermelons

Although we do not celebrate Halloween here with Jack O lanterns, trick or treating or even crisp autumn evenings, last Saturday when I was out with a friend, we saw a whole bunch of people dressed up in costumes for a Halloween party at the mall. As a person who is a fan of all chilling tales, and seeing that I have been a bit busy to dig up the rusty old brains for something new, I decided that I'll just repost one of the stories I put back in 2008: 

What I'm about to share is creepy enough that I'm only brave to type this out in the broad daylight. This story was told by a friend of my sister's, and apparently happened in a location not too far away from where I live (and the sister was under the impression that I used that route to work and told this story so I'd be careful - but how, I don't know)

The place in question was once an oil-palm estate. Today, oil palm trees still sway in the wind in a patch of land which goes almost as far as your eyes can see, but most of the area is now littered with medium sized industries, a road leading to/from the highway, the local Road Transport Department building and some small stalls, a mechanic's repair area and trees. It looks like the most normal area there ever was.

At night, the family members of my sister's friend set up a stall in that area, and one day (in the early am) which was as normal as any other day, one of the family members saw something from a distance carrying a sugarcane and walking towards the highway while they themselves were getting ready to pack up for the night. She stared at it, wondering why was anyone walking around that area at that time - unless they needed help of some sort. Apparently it noticed her as well, and turned to look at her, and immediately she felt as though she was pinned to the ground, while experiencing the creepiest feeling ever. She knew it was not human. It changed it's direction and started walking towards their crowd in what she described as an intimidating manner.

She somehow managed to point out what she saw and the whole family panicked as they hurriedly packed their stuff into their van. The thing was getting nearer to them as they worked. Finally they got into the van, and drove off. Nevertheless, the creature was still trailing them from afar, and the person who was driving the van (the mother, if I'm not mistaken) almost rammed the van into something on the road, which she couldn't see, but the others in the van saw. If it weren't for one of the kids who pulled the wheel aside, they would have all been injured. Speeding off, they finally managed to leave the thing behind.

Some time later, they got to know that the particular area has this resident "haunting" which we locally refer to as a 'penunggu". Apparently this one walks araound with either a sugarcane or a watermelon which signifies what it wants from the victims. Either death or injury. Although I do not use the road on a daily basis, it is close enough to give me the creeps.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

For Esme - With Love & Squalor

We pick up books for various reasons. A few weeks ago, my sister and I went crazy in a bookshop named Bookalicious, which had titles you don't often see in the bigger bookstores. After Catcher in the Rye, I had wanted to read Franny and Zooey but just never got the chance because I never found the book. That day we found it, and neatly tucked next to it, was this book, by the same author. Needless to say, we picked both up among various other books. 

Now, for some strange reason, at the beginning of October, I had decided that I'd only read horror related books for the whole month - this was after that dream about scary children I had. I only managed three -
Let The Right One In
The Shining 
Abarat (I picked this assuming it was horror because the author was Clive Barker - but it was actually fantasy. Oh well.)

I gave up on horror after that, partly because I suddenly didn't feel like reading horror anymore, and also I had ran out of books on horror and therefore on Tuesday morning, I finally started reading For Esme - With Love and Squalor. Without having ever read any reviews on it, or even checked it out online, I had no clue that it was actually a compilation of short stories. 

The book was a page turner, with most of the stories set around the war, especially the story which carries the same title as the book. Men and women smoked in almost all the stories, parents were the kind who seemed to either be non-existent, or perhaps those who were not too fond of their children (or even if they were, it was displayed in a very odd manner), children were downright strange and employed vocabulary that was far ahead of their actual age, people (strangers) had long conversations with each other and so forth. I found the book very interesting as the stories mostly required you to come up with your own interpretation of what the author was trying to convey.  

My only complaint about this edition of the book is the font size. It was painfully tiny.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Leave a light on

Festivals.... You can't really run away from them even if you wanted to, and in Malaysia, there are just so many of them that it keeps us happy - happy enough to occasionally forget that we are actually angry at the government. There! I have just gone and sullied a festival by referring to politics.

Anyway, come tomorrow, will be a festival I celebrate, and while all the excitement I had for festivals when I was a child has been squeezed dry by cynicism and genuine disinterest, I somehow hope that writing about it will at least spark some interest, although I'm pretty much convinced that I'm going to spend tomorrow afternoon sleeping - just like the years past. 

The festival is known as Deepavali or Diwali and is commonly also known as the festival of lights, as it was all about good winning over evil. This explains the picture above, an interesting twist to symbolise 'light' which was made by my sister a few days ago... We could just turn off all the electric lights and stare into this for hours tonight :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Oh Google, Look At What You've Done

Some time ago, I made use of a children's folk story to poke fun at a certain Malaysian whom I thought was in the news for all the wrong reasons. Turns out, my reference to the folk story has earned  the top spot on google Malaysia when people took the trouble to search the following:

click to enlarge

Now, while I'm cool about being listed on google and all that (I don't earn money from the blog, so ratings are not and have never been of any particular importance), I can't deny that I'm a tad bit embarrassed about the content of the post (funnily, the thought that the post would be embarrassing never occurred to me when I clicked 'publish') despite the fact that I think the person (for once) may have found what they're looking for.

In the initial stages of blogging here on blogspot, and because everyone else was doing it too, I paid a good deal of attention on the blog statistics, and with all the tools out there which are available, it's such an easy task. I myself use Statcounter which I feel has a few of the better features around - especially the option for putting up your counter invisibly! Recently, after discovering the above case, I thought I'd start paying attention again at what has led random people over to the blog, and the findings are as follows: (1st August until 23rd October 2011)

Most of the searches are looking for Love Films's 100 movies in a poster and stuff on the ring of fire, and I'm glad that they will actually find that it is indeed somewhere around here. However, other than that, the search terms used are far from being mind boggling like they used to be so very long ago.

Back in 2008, folks came around looking for 'malaysian chicks' and 'red tubes' (I didn't know it then, but sometime later found out that red tube was a site for porn - hence the popularity. Oh, how those who searched for that and ended up at this blog would have cursed) And there were a few other strange searches as well. I had a good laugh. This new finding of rather dull keywords makes me wonder if people have actually ceased looking for strange stuff on the net, or has google managed to filter the content so that strange search items do not find their way to your blog unless you post equally strange content...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I Don't Really Feel Like Doing It

This morning was the first time in over a week where I had a good look at my face while brushing my hair. My eyes seem to have sunken in, my bangs are covering my face right up to the tip of my nose, my skin looks pretty dead and I cannot even begin to explain what my eyebrows have become. I only thought I felt like crap, but it now looks like I also look like crap. And as I am writing this, I'm beginning to feel as though I have written all this before, a long, long time ago.

To make it all worse, I have a wedding dinner to attend tomorrow, and I don't really feel like it. In a typical womanly way I'd say that I have NOTHING to wear - which is rather true in a way.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

*Insomnia Explained

You lie there, awake, your eyes closed but just barely so, your mind refusing to shut down. You shift positions, hoping against all hope that it will help. Instead you repeat the whole process again and again only to be able to fall asleep about 15 minutes before you have to get up and begin a brand new day. This used to be how my life was some time ago that I had actually dedicated a 'label' on this blog to the word 'Insomnia'

Without me realising it, the inability to sleep slowly disappeared over time. Of course it would occasionally creep up on me every now and then, but it was nothing that made me worry endlessly about ending up like The Machinist. Over the last two weeks however, the inability to sleep or insomnia, as I'd rather call it (lets face it, insomnia is just one word that describes the situation instead of the three words used in 'inability to sleep', making it much more convenient!) made a comeback. Being sleep deprived after a long, long time was awful, but this time, instead of puzzling over it, the reason for this insomnia was suddenly apparent.

See, when I was was suffering from the initial bout of insomnia, I used to work rather late on a regular basis. The 'working late' trend came to a halt circa 2009 when the economic crisis happened (although we were not affected very badly) I followed this new trend although the economy picked up later on, and never realised that this could've been the contributor to my ability to sleep well. Since mid September, I've had to work late rather often, and all of a sudden, the insomnia came back just like that - with my mind actively working while it should actually be trying to get some rest.

Now that I've discovered the rootcause of the problem, the only thing left is to find a solution!

* Self-diagnosed

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where Hollow Eyed Triplets Scare The Hell Out of Terra Shield

There is a very talented lady out there who is of the opinion that "Childrin r Skary". I was first introduced to her wonderful animated works through my sister, in which our talented lady, Katy Towell tells interesting horror stories involving children.



I personally find little girls or little boys that make an apperance in my dreams to live up to the opinion that childrin R skary. Take last night's dream for instance.

Now, the floor where the office I sit in is located is already full of horror stories that could fill up a short collection of short stories if anyone was interested to take up the challenge in the first place - come to think of it, I could, but knowing me, I'd just scare myself even more, something I'd not want to do seeing that I've been working late the past few weeks. Anyway, back to the dream.

I was alone in the office, looking out of the window which is behind my seat due to some noise I heard. The place looks empty enough until I get a glimpse of three little girls in pigtails with their arms linked, hopping and skipping along the long floor which is right in front of the office. I back up a bit and try to hide, because something tells me that I should be afraid of these girls, whoever they are. (They were all dressed in red collared t-shirts tucked in into light brown pants)

So there I am, standing partially hidden as I hope that the girls will not see me no matter what. However, as they pass by where I'm standing, they come to a halt outside the window and all three of them simultaneously turn their heads slowly and look at me. Their eyes are hollow and black, and as they open their mouths (to scream???), you can see that it's hollow as well, and I was gripped with fear. All I wanted to do was scream, but unlike those horrible Hollywodd slasher movies, I just stood rooted to the ground, unable to scream nor move. It was then my alarm decided that it was time for me to wake up. 

Other dreams related to scary children

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Just Keeping Up With the Momentum

We all know what happens when we begin to lose momentum.

Last month was my blogging month of 2011 after an extremely slow start in the beginning of the year. In fact, I almost wrote a status update on how I thought I got back my momentum, with all intentions of being cryptic about it, so that only people who knew that I blogged would get what it meant. The status update never got the chance to go up at all, and a good thing too.

A few things ran a couple of short distance sprints across my mind, and as much as I am all for quality over quantity, for the time being, quantity is of a higher priority, just because it helps keep up the momentum. I don't know if I'm making any sense here or not as I'm practically nodding off as I type this.

Anyway, here's a post to just keep up with the momentum.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Pyromaniacs, Sort of...

Burnt socks!
The skies were supposed to be clear. Yeah right.

Instead, the skies opened up and literally poured water all over us, in varying degrees of showers, drizzle and plain old rain of the cats and dogs variety. Without water proof raincoats, we were just wet and miserable. And cold. I can assure you that wet shoes and socks are not fun at all. The only other not so fun thing I can think of, which is worse than wet socks and shoes is a wet jacket which is supposed to protect you from the cold. Wet jacket, cold wind - totally beats the purpose.

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and through previously successful rain soaked garb (my sister and I always end up in mysteriously rainy destinations) drying endeavours in other hotel rooms, we decided to follow the tried and tested formula of drying the wet socks on the lamp. It works like a charm and leaves your socks all warm and toasty. 

Not this time, though. The socks were left to dry on one of the lamps while my sister showered and I sat in front of the TV trying to get reception of some sort - seriously, lousy TV service in the hotels here. How on earth are tourists supposed to learn anything about your country if you can't watch the local channels? In my TV related enthusiasm, I didn't notice the smell of something burning until my sister came out and asked me what the smell was. It was then we realised that instead of getting all warm and toasty as intended, the socks was burning around the edges, glowing an ominous red. A frantic and nervous laughter induced moment indeed as we scrambled to save the whole building from going up in flames by beating the burning bits of the socks into submission. The whole room smelled awful and we opened the windows to let in some fresh air, although I must admit that the smell was never the same again. 

Thankfully the smoke detectors didn't do their job, and the whole building didn't burn down either, because then I would probably in prison in a foreign country awaiting trial for arson, or attempted arson and wouldn't be able to share this story being imprisoned and all. We threw the burnt socks away, hoping that no one would find out the truth, ever. I can just can't help wonder what the housekeeping staff would say to each other as they cleaned our room the next day. Ha ha ha.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Born in the year of the monkey

An *unintentional act of mischief was committed yesterday, somewhere in the afternoon, while a whole bunch of us were seated in a room presenting some reports.

I had completed my presentation, and had ceased being worried about it and sat listening to the final presenter - lets call him Arofsky. He was talking about a few activities which he labelled as **3R, and my mind immediately drifted off towards the 3Rs related to the environment - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Someone of importance then chose that moment to ask Arofsky what his 3Rs were, and although he's one of those really smooth talking guys oozing with confidence most of the time, he sort of fumbled with the final R, and without much thinking, I prompted him with the word "Recycle" - a bit too loudly, I guess - and he took it as an actual prompt and said 'recycle' to which everyone burst out laughing.  

He rectified it with the correct word almost immediately afterwards, but I was too busy being embarrassed to take any notice, especially after Ace who was sitting opposite me laughingly told me that I had turned *** 'naughty'

* It seriously was unintentional
**Well, maybe this is a lesson to not use already famous acronyms and (whatever it is you call things like 3R), because people's minds will always seek the most popular use!
*** I don't know where this comes from... I've not exactly been angelic all this while either :p

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

THEY WILL BE MISSED

Sometime last week, I found out that R.E.M had decided to disband after 31 long years of making music. Though I knew they've been around for a long, long time, the knowledge that it was 31 years actually took me by surprise.

I got to know R.E.M back in 2001 when the song Imitation of Life was repeatedly played. The video, a pool side party in a reversed sequence was equally fascinating. I suppose that song made them popular in these parts, and two years later while Bad Day was receiving lots of airplay due to In Time, I actually won this CD of theirs in a promotional contest organised by a music TV station, which I listened to a lot back then due to my *limited CD collection (Channel V - which for some strange reason has ceased airing it's programmes here since last year) In a freak accident while cleaning up, the CD fell off the shelf and broke into two.

Eventually, over the noughties, I ended up being exposed to a lot of their stuff to the point that at one time, my MP3 player was actually dominated by R.E.M songs. Even iTunes, recently, in an attempt to allow it some independence in picking music for me, decided that I should listen to R.E.M among some other stuff it picked out for me.

Now, I can't really say I'm a great big fan of R.E.M - if i was, I'd have probably known that they've been making music for 31 years. I just like them, and find their music among those I like to listen to, not just the songs from In Time, but other songs as well. But somehow, the knowledge that they have decided to call it quits seems to be like an end of something, and it made me think something like - 'there goes another band that I actually like to listen to'. They will be missed. Indeed.

* CDs are insanely expensive here, hence the limited collection.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Big North Sumatera Adventure Part VI - Volcanoes and The End

continued from The Big North Sumatera Adventure Part V

Although I had not mentioned anything about geothermal activity throughout any of the past posts from the Big North Sumatera Adventure series, Lake Toba and the areas surrounding it was actually once a very active area, so active indeed that whatever it was that formed Lake Toba was a supervolcano that erupted over 73000 years ago. 

Mount Sibayak and Mount Sinabung are both located near Berastagi. While Sibayak spews out sulphuric vapour every single day, having last erupted in 1881, Mount Sinabung had erupted just slightly less than 2 months before our visit. There also happens to be place where they had pools of hot water from the geothermal activity in that area. It looked like it was an extremely popular thing to do (so many people!), but we didn't take a dip there. 

We went back to the now cleaned up hotel, and stayed in for the rest of the night after dinner. We found a creepy looking 'mini house' with glasses in them behind the block where our room was, suspecting that it is used as a place where they keep a 'guardian' of some sort. We can't verify that, though, but it still creep-ed the hell out of the sister and I. 

 
Mt Sinabung

Mt Sibayak


The next day, we headed back to the Medan for our flight back. Before that, though we stopped at the market to look at stuff- like I said, we weren't there to buy fruits and lug them back all on a plane! We reached Medan by lunch time, had some lunch and had plenty of time to spend before having to get back to the airport. Now, while some cities may be interesting, I cannot say the same for Medan, especially not after seeing what the countryside had to offer. It was one shopping mall after the next. One thing though, they seem to place utmost care on their environment. There was this one mall which was built around a huge tree instead of them chopping it down, which I thought was wonderful. We did buy some stuff at the mall, though - just to finish up our converted currency, and sat and ate some lovely waffles with blue mint ice cream and lots of chocolate sauce.

We had some dinner, and then it was time to go. Surprisingly, at the airport, we were reunited with our little lost luggage, the pink duffel bag.

Both my sister and I agree that this is one of the best trips we've ever had in terms of relaxation. I also have to add here that we had the most awesome guide ever. He asked us to call him Do (and channeled a bit of Fraulein Maria by doing the Do Re Mi Fa So to emphasise the point, ha ha). He actually told us that he's not really keen on his job as a tour guide, but despite that he took real good care of us, had the same definition for punctuality as the both of us which made everyone happy.

The End.

THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND AT IT'S BEST

Over the past twelve to thirteen years, I've mostly been a light sleeper, unless I'm not feeling well, where I could sleep *like a dead log for hours and hours. I also happen to wake up with the sun - even in a darkened room, alas, although this makes waking up in the mornings extremely easy, much to the envy of those who often oversleep.

On Friday morning, however, I found it incredibly **difficult to wake up. The gentle tune of AC Newman's Prophets woke me up with a start at 6:15 am. I groaned as I hit the snooze button. (I do this every morning, but on most days, I'm usually really awake by 6:15 am. I hit the snooze button to fool myself that I'm getting an extra 10 minutes of sleep. Somehow, this actually works wonders)

Reluctantly, I got up, but found my toothbrush missing from it's holder. I looked under the holder, behind the place where the toothpaste was kept and even inside the bathroom sink to no avail (I had once lost a toothbrush, and it was found much later inside the bathroom sink although there was no way it could ever go there by itself) Resigned that I had lost my toothbrush, I went looking for a new one, and realised something was really wrong when I was inside a shop which had rows and rows of toothbrushes in many different designs on the shelves. And then AC Newman sang again.

Turns out, my ten minute snooze had my subconscious mind trying to convince me that if I couldn't get up and get to work on time, I could always give the excuse that my toothbrush went missing and I had to get a new one from the shop!

*  My parents often used to say this about people who could sleep so well that they are oblivious to the happenings around them
** Due to the flu medicine I had taken the night before. I only took it after 10 pm, and the effects had not fully worn off by the time I had to wake up.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Random Thoughts

1. It just hit me that I haven't done any random posts in awhile. And no, I can't explain why either...

2. I actually thought I had escaped unscathed from the flu that came visiting recently. I managed to get some rest and actually got better. This morning, however, I found myself sneezing violently again.

3. Which is worse? Having a colleague ask you if you are greying (at the age of 31), or finding out that the 'grey' is actually white paint that splashed onto your hair while you were investigating a problem with the particular paint?


Sunday, September 18, 2011

AND WHERE IS THAT AGAIN?

Around two years ago, a rather spiffy gadget walked into my life and ever since then, things seem so much clearer. My life suddenly had direction. And the gadget? (Drumrolls please! The GPS unit. Ha ha) 

Now, I've had a friend of a friend say that GPS usage makes you stop thinking as you try to make your way to a certain destination, and although I am the kind of person who is all for thinking, I just cannot toss the GPS unit away. You see, in the old days (before google maps and all), if I had to go somewhere new, I'd pick up the street directory and study it like I was going to sit for an exam using it's contents, copy important directions down neatly and store the copy as well as the original map in the car. One day before having to make the journey, I'd take the car, and the map and the copy, as well as the whole family and we'd all ply the route together to get it right before I attempted it on my own the next day or so. This method worked fine most of the time, but there was once, even with the one day before trial route, when I took the wrong ramp, realised it a bit too late and ended up in a long road to nowhere and didn't know how to turn back. I stopped at a petrol station to ask for the way back to not much help as the man at the petrol station himself wasn't sure which way I had to take. Thank goodness I had a colleague who knew the area well and he guided me out of the road to nowhere (it was actually leading to this place called Jinjang) via phone.

I just cannot bring myself to relive days like that.

Earlier, I was looking up the directions to a book warehouse sale, thinking that I should at least just go and check it out, but as much as I searched, I couldn't seem to find the given address on the GPS unit. In fact, the name of the street given leads me all the way to Singapore! A search on google maps indicated the same problem - not that it led me to Singapore or anything, but the name of the street just didn't exist on the map. After some more searching, it turns out that when you search for the place with the address given in the newspaper ad - Jalan Bersatu, Section 13/4, Petaling Jaya, google maps just gets all confused. Referring to an older map on the official site of the sale organiser to the following - Jalan 13/4 Section 13 Petaling Jaya, and suddenly, google maps and the GPS unit nod their imaginary heads and say - 'easy peasy' ;)

Anyway, some time back, a friend put up a google map *glitch which I thought was hilarious. This is what you do:
1. Go to google maps
2. Click on get directions
3. On A type China
4. On B type Taiwan
5. Get Directions
6. Check that it's on G70
7. Scroll down to direction no 56
8. Laugh.

*for the lack of a better word

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Big North Sumatera Adventure Part V


continued from here: The Big North Sumatera Adventure Part IV 

The Journey to Berastagi 

The lake ends here
We left Samosir Island right after breakfast the next day by hopping onto the ferry and sailing out of there, bidding farewell to the lake. However, we still had a long journey ahead of us, once again through the winding inland roads, and through some really magnificent scenery after a rather early lunch.



One thing about Lake Toba is that it's elongated (check out the map above), and even as you drive away from it, you keep getting glimpses of the lake from the long, winding road, until you reach a certain point, that is, where the lake ends.  The moment you drive out of that road, there's no looking back, and no more lake. I don't know about my sister, but I did feel a wee bit sad when we had to leave that final bit of the lake.

Near the end point of the lake, however, is the Sipiso-Piso waterfall, named as such due to the narrow stream of water that makes the waterfall (Sipiso-piso means knife) Over here, you can actually walk down to the bottom using a set of built in stairs which makes going down safe, but coming up seem like a massive workout in the gym! Nevertheless, the view is simply breathtaking that the 'workout' is worth it. We didn't go right to the bottom, however. 

Sipiso-piso waterfall. Cuts like a knife ;)
After the waterfall, we headed away towards Berastagi, stopping for a bit at this farmstead where my sister got her Farmville fix. Cough. 


Adventure in Berastagi

Berastagi is another town in the highlands, famed for flowers and fruits, not that we were interested in fruits or flowers for that matter. It's just that you could check out a couple of volcanoes, and it's basically part of the normal trip anyone would take when they are in North Sumatera. The plan was basically to check in the hotel, and then go out back again. 

Just our luck! We arrived at the hotel amidst police patrol cars and debris on the street. People were grouped around the streets looking weary, and from what we could see, something particularly serious had happened there earlier. Turns out, a political figure had been there earlier (campaign, speech, we're not really sure), and there was a 'small' riot which explains the police and the debris. The hotel wasn't spared either as the glass walls and doors which encased the lobby were cracked in places. I initially thought someone had thrown a small bomb at the place. (Note: I'm not complaining about this, though... I've never seen anything like it, and found it interesting. This whole vacation had been filled with firsts - first time holidaying together with the sister, first time losing the luggage, first time seeing destruction from a riot first hand) 

Seeing the situation, we had to make an impromptu change of plans by visiting the volcanoes and the surrounding area first while the hotel staff did the cleaning and ensured that the place was safe.

Note: I took the map off the internet (google images and forgot which site it was). Photos in the North Sumatera series are all from my camera, though