Tuesday, August 30, 2011

54 Years

On 31st August 1957, a small peninsula in South East Asia declared independence from the British. Today, the country is known as Malaysia, and besides the old peninsula, encompasses some parts of the island of Borneo as well. Over the past week, the radio station I listen to interviewed several people who lived through more tumultuous times such as the time during the communist insurgency, and the race riots of 1969. Hearing these people speak, you can actually hear their sense of pride being a Malaysian shine through your car radio speakers as you navigate the busy roads to reach your workplace on time. And this, sadly is something you'll never hear from the current generation who run off to greener pastures the moment they are given the opportunity.


Earlier on Monday, they were airing a series of documentaries regarding Malaysia on the history channel. One which I found particularly interesting is the one on Hidden Cities - because like it's name, the places were indeed sort of hidden. I suppose, all this exposure to history has made me feel all these undefinable feelings I'm having towards the country right now, and despite how much I despise the way it's being run today, deep down inside, there's this whole lot of hope, and pride and love for the country. 

Happy Independence Day!

(Scheduled post)

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Economy, Festivals and Holidays!

Around a month ago, when the month of *Ramadan first started, the shopping mall where the gym I go to is located put up an abomination disguised as a festive decoration commemorating the festival - a giant rabbit dressed in a green traditional Malay costume. Decoration, ok. Traditional Malay costume, ok. But a rabbit? Seriously?

Same question here, but since I'm a local resident, I know for a fact that said rabbit was happily recycled from the Chinese New Year decoration earlier this year. On one hand it can be seen as an act of prudence in the current economic climate, but on the other hand, the ugliness of it is just too hard to bear, especially since we have children pestering their parents to take photographs of them posing with the rabbit, and also tourists standing to gawp at it (and take photos) - either mesmerised or horrified, we'll never know. (I've been meaning to take a photo of the offending rabbit for ever so long, but I keep forgetting. Besides, I don't want people mistaking me for a fascinated tourist or something!)

I'm currently enjoying a Monday afternoon at home, purging my brain of anything work related as the company I work in has decided to have an annual shutdown for the festivities, which start tomorrow, and Independence day which falls on Wednesday. It'll be a good opportunity to shutdown my brains as well.

So, here's wishing Eid Mubarak to those who celebrate and Happy Independence Day to all Malaysians.

*The holy Muslim month in which Muslims fast before celebrating Eid.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

WHEN I GROW UP...

I want to be a chemical engineer.

Actually, it was never like that. At all. Growing up, I had a long list of things I wanted to do. Believe it or not, being a drummer for a band in a pub was among one of them, although I never told anyone about it at that time. At the same time I also wanted to be a policewoman. However, for some reason, a career in the medical field took over the list and I thought that that was what I wanted to do, until 1996, when my sister met with an accident when we were on our way home from school one day and we spent a good time in the hospital emergency room, seeing people being wheeled around in wheelchairs in various degrees of injuries, the doctors who couldn't care less, missing several wounds and glass shrapnel which were scattered all over my sister's wounds. The whole atmosphere was so depressing that I knew there and then, that it was the end of an almost lifelong ambition.

What's really interesting (and somewhat disappointing as well) is that doctors are held very highly in the ethnic community I belong in. So highly held, that it is said that every family must have a doctor. So when the time came, and I took the fork in the road, leading to a path as far as possible from the medical field, my grandmother was a bit sad and there was a bit of drama between a certain aunt and uncle of mine who were angry with my parents for 'allowing' me to make such a terrible mistake in life!. A little later, another cousin was on her way there, but she decided that she preferred being a pharmacist.

Finally, after so many years, one cousin seemed to be on the right track. She was interested in medicine, and above all, did incredibly well in her A-levels. She let out a bombshell the other day though. Suddenly, for reasons of her own, she decided that maybe she didn't want to do medicine after all. Instead she's been thinking about going into chemical engineering - the field I'm currently in. Wow. The weirdest thing about this? It was her parents that had a falling out with mine about 13 years ago when I decided to take up the offer to do chemical engineering. Her father actually tried discouraging me from doing so by telling me that I'd have to climb tanks in my daily job. Certainly better than seeing blood and pus on a daily basis for sure. The closest thing I ever did to that was to climb up a steep ladder and take pictures of the rust in the tank, that was all. My aunt said it's up to her. Ha! I wonder what her dad says though...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

THE NEW AGE PAK PANDIR

The year was 1988, and in that year, a rather 'out of the box' teacher and our class crossed paths. Every week, during one of our lessons - I can't remember which, she'd introduce us to something interesting, from a discussion on old wives tales (which we had to dig up from our parents to be presented in class) to old folk stories - one of them being the story of the misadventures of Pak Pandir during his attempts to help his wife give their baby a bath while she was away. Back then, we all laughed at how silly Pak Pandir could be, putting his baby into a tub of boiling hot water (and killing it in the process) Looking back, I can't imagine how on earth childhood innocence could make something so morbid seem funny.

Earlier this week, while reading a local online paper, I saw the following headline: 
"Perkasa burns copies of Star, rubber snakes in protest" Full article here

Ok. (The) Star, I understand - something the newspaper wrote pissed them off big time, but rubber snakes? Seriously. I knew I had to read it, and I burst out laughing, because as disturbing as it was (due to the underlying racism), I thought it was funny as hell. Mainly because by burning the rubber snakes, the leader of Perkasa inadvertently acknowledged himself as a frog, which coincidentally is what most moderate Malaysians liken him to. Honestly though, I prefer frogs any given time.

This isn't the first article about this man and his group and the mischief they are up to. He has been loud and rude and somewhat gangster-ish, and if his arguments weren't so outrageous that they are borderline comical, and if the country actually had more physically outspoken people, I'd say someone would have already thrown an old slipper or two at him. However, for the moment, his head is still pretty safe due to various reasons.

On the other hand, I think that stories about him and his group should be compiled and put together as reading material for the future generation, where future 'out of the box' type of teachers could use the stories to entertain their students, like how ours did with her Pak Pandir stories -  once you get past the part that infuriates you, that is. The Frog is Malaysia's new age Pak Pandir.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

BURN BABY, BURN

Not Burnt
What is the probability of anyone of us consuming food that has been slightly burned that it's almost inedible?

This insanity happened to me twice last week. On Tuesday evening, I finally remembered to go down to the Ramadan food sales in the canteen. The company has kindly subsidised a certain amount for food for all staff regardless if they were Muslims or not, or if they were fasting or not, and I thought I might as well check it out and get some Nyonya cakes (aka kuih) By the time I arrived, though, most of the Nyonya cakes had been sold out and I was left with a meagre selection. Since I was already there, I thought - what the hell and randomly picked up two pieces of seri muka.

Much later in the day, after dinner, as I bit into a piece of the seri muka, I was greeted with the pungent smell of something that had burned in the pot. The top layer had apparently been scooped up and saved from a batch that had probably been burned to boredom at the bottom .

The second incident happened on Saturday for breakfast, over a dish of Nasi Lemak. I couldn't ascertain what exactly was burned, but I suspected it was the rice. I ate as much as I possibly could (due to feeling bad wasting food seeing that some people elsewhere might be starving), but had to quit halfway when I couldn't take it anymore.

What bothers me the most is the fact that these two food items were sold to consumers with the sellers most probably aware of their burned or almost burned status, although they most probably weren't tasted due to the food being cooked whilst they were fasting. Did they know the food was slightly inedible, or were they counting on the fact that the food would only be consumed later when they have closed their shops and were counting on people being too not bothered to complaint? Is it even remotely ethical for these business people to proceed and sell burned food to unsuspecting customers?

I guess I'll be staying away from food from both places for awhile now :(

On a lighter, happier note... I saw this website when looking for images for burnt food and thought I'd share it. Some of the comments on the display are just too hilarious.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

CABLE TV MYSTERIES

Despite the fact that watching TV seems so 2002, the TV set and *Malaysia's Most Reliable Weather Forecast Thingy still exists and is still going strong at my parents house, that is until a few days ago. 

Over the week, some of the channels have taken to disappearing overnight, for instance, among the few channels in the Education package (Discovery, NGW, NGC, Animal Planet, History, Discovery Sc), the only channel that is currently working happens to be NGC, whereas the rest happily display "Service is currently Unavailable", a message most commonly associated with the rain! Out of all the 40 available channels, 33 of them are now unavailable.  

A call to the service provider involved some 'troubleshooting tips' via the phone, and it turns out that none of the usual remedies suggested work. The messages on the unavailable channels remain the same, and the operator actually had the nerve to ask my mom if it was **raining. Not once, but twice! (In case you're curious, it wasn't) In the end, she said she'd send a technician over as she suspected that it might be a 'hardware' problem. She also added that this may result in my parents having to fork out an extra RM20 each month if we have to replace the hardware as the new units avaialble are all HD enabled.

While the 'hardware' problem theory seems a to be pretty legit, there happen to be one or two curious quirks about the problem. Take the 'Asian Food Channel' channel for instance (one of my favourite channels!), which works early in the morning (till about 10 am or so), but then ceases working for the rest of the day. This quirk was also observed in a few other channels. So, if it is indeed a 'hardware' problem, shouldn't the channels NOT be working at all, regardless of the time? Definitely something to think about.

*Now, if you're Malaysian, you surely already know how the weather dictates our ability to watch cable TV with our (ahem) favourite service provider, and if you're not Malaysian, well, each time it rains, a yellow dot appears on the blank screen and tells you about the service being unavailable. It is so sensitive to rain (and possibly heavy cloud cover), that it has become a somewhat national joke which is not funny anymore.
** Turns out, the service provider tech staff are also trained to ask about the weather when trying to help you troubleshoot reception problems. <Insert bitter laugh here>

Edit: The problem was with the receptor on the satellite dish, apparently. 

Saturday, August 06, 2011

RISK and Possible Risk.

Apparently, last-minuteness works quite well with me. 

In a sudden deviation from my usual (but mood-dependent and selective) anti-social behaviour, I found myself agreeing to spend last Saturday night playing RISK with a few friends, although on second thought, I could not possibly ever be anti-social with the bunch of people mentioned in here. I pulled up at JV's house around 7:40 pm, and instead of delving straight into attempts at conquering the world, the three of us had decided to go and pick up the board from JV's friend's house, have some dinner and then begin the game.

Several minutes later with the board in hand, JV drove around as we wondered where we'd have dinner. In the end, after a rather lengthy discussion we decided to head over to Bangsar for dinner, quite a distance from where we were, actually. By the time dinner was over all thoughts of RISK had been thrown out of the window, albeit a bit forcefully - PJ still thought we could pull off a very short game!. Instead we drove around some more for some ice cream.

By the time ice cream was over, we thought we'd just head back quietly. After all, it's been awhile since I met both PJ and JV and catching up over dinner and ice cream was really good, seeing that you'd actually have to concentrate while playing RISK and small talk might have been more of an inconvenience. However, as things turned out, the journey back was far from quiet, as the car started making a terribly loud noise. After finding a suitable place to stop, we found the culprit of the loud noise amidst the smell of burnt rubber - the right hand back tyre was flatter than flat.

We waited for a bit for rescue, in the form of the AAM personnel (and it must be noted here that JV was admirably cool throughout the whole incident - I think I'd have panicked a bit) who helped us change the tyre and you could see a big gash around the whole tyre near the rim. It was probably the scariest looking tyre I'd ever seen - other that the bits and pieces of tyre you occasionally find along the road. 

We went back later, leaving the warm 'breeze' of the exhaust fume filled highway. It could have rained, but it didn't. We could have met someone scary, but we didn't. So all was good in the end. I just hope JV's rim wasn't too badly damaged.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

SO LONG, AND THANK YOU FOR ALL THE FISH, HARRY POTTER

It's been ten long years since the very first Harry Potter book (HP and the Philosopher's Stone) was thrown on my lap. I picked it up, a bit reluctantly at first, and the rest, as they say, is history. The movies on the other hand have been a different story altogether. The first movie was just 'alright', whereas the rest just got from bad to worse as they ignored important plotlines, leaving readers and fans of the books seething and disappointed, and the non-readers wondering what the hell happened.

It all changed with the 7th movie, though. I didn't read the book right before the movie, and watched it with an open mind knowing well enough that it was the beginning of the end, and enjoyed it thoroughly. The review is here:

http://raconteuresquescribblings.blogspot.com/2010/12/harry-potter-and-how-it-begins-to-end.html


For that reason, we (the sister and I) went to see the final installment of the Harry Potter (HP and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2) on a Monday night in the previous week, and since we both thought that Part 1 was pretty good, it only seemed natural that we looked forward to Part 2.

PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD. Maybe.

Harry, Ron and Hermione continue their quest in searching for and destroying the horcruxes, fragments of Voldermort's soul, which was the method he employed in gaining complete immortality. As the book suggests, this leads them into very dangerous situations which they somehow manage to handle despite their age and the capabilities as young wizards. While they seem to be succeeding in their quest, the ultimate task of defeating Voldemort still lay ahead of them. The final showdown was in the school grounds. Here, the movie was a definite winner as the showdown scenes were just awesome.

IMHO the best dialogue goes to one between Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy.

Voldemort: How can you live with yourself, Lucius?
Lucius: I don't know...
(Seriously, do you even actually answer such a question??)

Personally, I'd say that splitting the movie into 2 parts was a good idea, as they could reveal certain background information which is crucial to understanding why things happened the way they did, especially the part about Snape's memory. In the end, good triumphs over evil, but not in the way any *fans of the book thought it would end. And then we approached the "19 years later" scene. I knew the ending based on the book, but didn't expect them to use the same actors (heavily padded  and made up to show what parenthood can do to your physical state, ha ha)

ASIDE:
During the course of the movie, the rest of the crowd simultaneously uttered "shhh" at a very noisy child, who decided that he/she wanted to make noise while other people were engrossed in the movie. Seriously, people. Leave your tiny unappreciative kids at home when you come to watch movies.

Overall, the movie was indeed enjoyable. It's been a few good years of Potter-mania, and now it's all over. No doubt we can always read the book if we feel like reliving the adventures, or watch the movies again (if we were fans in the first place), but the idea of not having any anticipation for something new is a sad one indeed!

*Before the final book was released back in 2007, a few of us discussed on possible endings for the book. Given the author's penchant for misery, we thought that while she would allow the good people to win, a big sacrifice would have to be made, such as Harry dying, or something. She allowed Harry to live, but killed a whole bunch of others, though.