Sunday, July 29, 2012

Save The Raintrees

They're centenarians, lined up along the road, providing shade against the sweltering afternoon heat, and giving wannabe photographers the opportunity to get good photos. Back in July 2010, I saw them in person during a visit to the Taiping Lake Gardens.

The other day, my mother told me that there was a big issue over some development plans for the Taiping Lake Gardens, in which these 120 year old raintrees may face a situation they have not faced in the past. The very next day, my favourite radio station interviewed a man who started a petition to stop the Taiping Municipal Council from going ahead with their plans of building kiosks at the area despite assurance that the trees will not be in immediate danger. The problem is, you can never tell with development -  what if greed gets in the way? According to the interview, the proposed kiosks will end up blocking the view of the lakes and I'm assuming that the aura of tranquillity which we get there now will be gone forever, as kiosks means people selling stuff (food/drinks/souvenirs) which will result in more people, noise and rubbish. 

I really don't understand why they always find the need to create business opportunities in places like this (fine, it's all about economic growth, but you can have economic growth elsewhere, right?) Do people constantly need to buy food and drinks while enjoying the view? 

News report here: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/7/26/nation/11732109&sec=nation

On the other hand, it seems as though people making noise about this whole thing has made the Municipal Council reconsider their plans. Sounds good to me. So far. 

Some pictures of the lake gardens and the trees I took while I was there:













Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Photo and A Quote

Dinosaur in the garden: Run!!!!

Failure teaches us that life is but a draft, a long rehearsal for a show that will never play - (Quoted from the movie Amelie)

Photo and quote are totally unrelated.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

They Brought A Water Gun to a Fight

A primary school/elementary level bad joke:

Teacher: What is the scientific term used for water?
Student: HIJKLMNO
Class: Ha ha ha 

Bad jokes aside...

There has been talk earlier this year that the state I live in will be facing a severe water shortage by 2014 unless the state government allows the federal government to go ahead with their plan of building a new water treatment plant. The state government insists that we do not need a new water treatment plant as reducing the current wastage from the present operational water treatment plants will actually be able to cover the projected shortage.

Enter SYABAS, the private water concessionaire who is in charge of the distribution of treated water who shamelessly suggested that water should be rationed from now to prevent the acute water shortage. An article I read *here states that the previous government left behind a very complicated system where water is treated by several different companies, while Syabas is in charge of distribution. Based on what I can see/read, the whole system is inefficient, where potential to **leak is high. There's plenty of room for improvement with the current facilities, and before even thinking of getting new facilities, the wise move will be to upgrade and increase efficiency of what we have at the moment. It's common sense.

What annoys me the most about this matter is the way the current state government is being accused by the mainstream media of being the bad guys who will lead the people of the state I live in to a world where clean water will be unavailable. To make things worse, you have public water rationing pleas by companies like Syabas, which seems to be private only in name and not in practice. The latest news on the other hand states that the federal government in trying to intervene with forming a committee to dig deeper into this water issue - but guess what, this committee does not have any representatives from the state government. There has been statements issued by various groups requesting non-politicising of the water crisis, but take a look at what's happening in the papers (mainstream media) and you can see that this is an all out war considering that the general elections are kind of just around the corner.

Another article: http://malaysiansmustknowthetruth.blogspot.com/2012/07/water-crisis-or-crisis-of-corruption.html

*The site has plenty of good articles because it extracts stuff from the local papers, but it has too
 many pop up ads.
** water and $$$

Thursday, July 19, 2012

So, a vending machine company that dispenses toothbrushes and oral hygiene products thought that it was appropriate to post a comment on my blog post about vending machines dispensing sweet drinks.

Interesting...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Road to Nowhere (Out of Kandy)

Continued from here



It is said that out there in this world (and maybe beyond) there are 6 other people who look somewhat like us. A doppelgänger of sorts. They may be of a different gender, or of a different nationality, but you might someday be walking on the streets of Taipei and think to yourself... "hey that person looks like (insert name of female friend here whom you're sure is back wherever you came from), but it's a he!"

My family met a not-so-favourite-uncle's doppelgänger in Sri Lanka. The similarity wasn't just physical. He even spoke like him, wore similar glasses my uncle would have used when he was in his late twenties while wooing my aunt (in the mid to late 80's) and bossed people around just like my uncle. The similarity was freaky but kind of hilarious at the same time (Come to think of it, I should have discreetly taken a video of this man and showed it to my uncle's kids just for laughs) 

Due to the rain (I'm so sorry, I know I sound like some mad raving lunatic complaining about the rain in every given post, but there's a reason) there was a landslide blocking our path out of the hotel. So after a wonderful breakfast of everything we trooped out to meet our guide when we were suddenly face to face with Mr. Doppelgänger, one of the hotel staff. He insisted that we shouldn't walk in the direction we were headed (we had made plans with our guide to meet at the lobby) as there was a landslide and we'll have to wait till they cleared it up. Will these string of weird happenings haunt us till the end?
Just my luck. The moment I wanted to take a picture of ppl cleaning up the rubble is the very moment our guide decides that he should step on the accelerator.

The road out of Kandy led us to a gem lapidary. I was glad that they had a little museum exhibit and a model of a mine where darkness enveloped you before they decided to try to sell some gems to you. I'm not that big on jewellery, but the rest of my family actually got themselves some stuff. Meanwhile, I was more interested in this....

Fossils!

 This was the last stop in Kandy. 


Saturday, July 14, 2012

In Which I Crawl onto the Smartphone Bandwagon

After an unexpected quest for a Sony mp3 player and an enthusiastic (and almost obsessive) research for a rugged phone, I have finally crawled onto the smartphone bandwagon with a Sony (Ericsson) Xperia Active. 
July 2012

I liked it the moment I saw it on the Sony site, and I knew that I wanted it. It is dust and water proof, can handle tracking with wet fingers and was built to withstand abuse. It isn't the newest phone on the block. Released towards the end of last year, there were only two units left in the country (according to the store I went to) and I had to book a set and wait for them to send it to the store nearest to me. I got them to do so, and they called me yesterday afternoon. By 10:00 pm last night, the phone was in my grubby hands.

As I was checking out the phone and setting it up to my liking, I suddenly realised that it has been 12 years since I've been using mobile phones, and how they've changed over the years, both in function and appearance. I still remember my first phone. *My parents had given it to me in my 3rd year in university (June 2000), much to my horror. I had 2 years of freedom before they found a way on how to keep tabs on me. It was an Alcatel Movistar which looked like a banana from the side and only knew Spanish. After awhile, I did like it, but then disaster struck. I got pick pocketed and the phone got stolen. Until I graduated in October 2002, I ended up using my dad's Alcatel. 

The second Alcatel decided to die on me on the very day I moved out of university. I had applied for some jobs and missed an interview for a job because they couldn't get through my phone. I was miserable for weeks (well, maybe years considering that I still can remember the incident so well, ha ha)

2000 - 2012
Later on in November 2002, with the small bit of balance I had from my student loan, I got myself a Nokia 3310 - which has recently been labelled the Chuck Norris of mobile phones. It was durable and withstood all my abuse for years and years. The only reason why I ever gave it up was because after the original battery had died out, the replacement battery started giving problems. I'd suddenly find myself without a connection. By that time, I had begun to rely on the phone as a way out of trouble. I had some car trouble around that time and constantly worried that I'd need to call for help if I got stranded and what would I do if my phone suddenly didn't want to work. So I ended up upgrading to the Nokia 6610 in June 2006.

I think the Nokia 6610 was one of the phones that I used for the longest time. Although by the time I was coerced into giving it up, the numbers on the keypad had faded and was sunken in, I still loved it to bits. The only reason I finally agreed on buying a new phone that would support 3G was because I was being sent to Japan for a 3 week course and needed some form of communication back home. The 6610, as decent as it was for use under the Malaysian sun was too outdated for the likes of Japanese service providers even if it was just for roaming.

So, at the end of September 2009, just a week before my flight to Japan, in search of my very first 3G phone, I picked a Sony Ericsson K770i. I think I loved it instantly and wondered why I had ever put up with Nokia and their policy of selling cables for connecting to your computer separately instead of together with the package. It took a bit of getting used to, and I loved the fact that I had a cybershot camera in hand and could take any pictures I wanted if my actual camera got full. I could also listen to music. I even could blog from it if I wanted to, but never did. It worked well for a long time and the battery is still good. It even took my abuse without much trouble until recently when we needed some duct tape to intervene and help us solve the damage from the abuse. Service was ended with mixed feelings on 13 July 2012.

* I just realised what a terrible daughter I must have been.

+All the phones I got were slightly "old" by the time I bought them. I don't know why this is, but it seems like a common trend with me. Now, Sony Ericsson doesn't exist anymore since the full takeover by Sony, but I somehow managed to get hold of a Sony Ericsson in my search for the perfect rugged phone.

Friday, July 13, 2012

On Science

Over my sandwich and a steaming mug of coffee during my lunch break, I often unwind by reading science articles and blogs on Discover Magazine. There, I've openly admitted my pseudo-geek and nerd-like tendencies on this blog for all to see. 

A few weeks ago, there was an uproar among the scienctific community that had nothing to do with the Higgs Boson. Everyone was talking about a certain promotional video that was released by the EU to encourage young women to get involved in science. Turns out, the scientific community found the video extremely distasteful that I had to watch it for myself. Here it is, below.




To be honest, if I was a young girl on the brink of deciding between arts or science as my future career, I don't think this video would sway my final decision towards science. I thought it was shallow on the whole, like a comment a lab assistant once gave me a long time ago when I first started working. I have long nails most of the time, but it's not because I keep them long for beauty purposes (a manicurist might cry if she sees my hands), but because I always seem to forget to clip my nails. I was removing paint from my fingers at the sink in the lab and had trouble removing the bit under my nails. He looked at me and remarked that we work in a paint factory and not in a lipstick factory. Whatever was that supposed to mean? All I knew is that is was the shallowest and most sexist comment I've heard in a long time. Many men keep their nails long too. 

I understand that there are probably less women scientists than there are men, but is the shortage of women actually really caused by the fact that  they can't wear pretty clothes or can't use make up at work?  

Or are there other underlying factors such as the lack of opportunities to get hired because they are women and are expected to *get married and 'go and have babies someday'. What if the woman had a professor tell her it's not worth it going into research as she's a woman (long hours and no time for herself) and advised her to teach instead because that would suit her better? Or what if she really, really just isn't interested?

*My friend who did Chemical Engineering with me back in uni had this said to her when she was being interviewed for a job.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

We Could be Heroes

If there was an Olympic medal for worrying, I'd probably win gold. Adrian Mole said something like this in one of his diary entries, and I personally think I could win if I competed against him. After all, I'm real while he's (ahem) fictional. :P

One of the few things I'm currently worried about is the fact that I think I find quite a bit of things which people generally do not find funny to be rather funny. It's not a new development, though. I've been doing this for years - and if you're interested, there's a label called "funny stuff" at the sidebar of this blog. 

Of late, just as the government declared under a certain transformation program that the number of crimes have reduced due to the efforts of the program, the reality of the situation is the complete opposite. People in my neighbourhood had their houses robbed by thieves who carried weapons, my boss had her house broken into, a woman was assaulted in an elevator in a shopping mall, a woman was carjacked and almost got raped but she was clever enough to save herself and live to share her story, a 52 year old woman on a motorbike almost got her bag in the basket snatched when a man riding another bike tried to rob her - but she gave him a punch and saved herself from being part of the statistics. There are so many other stories of crimes around us, and some of them never even make it to our papers. Oh, and just the other day, 2 katana wielding people managed to gain entry outside the Prime Minister's Department. What they were doing there, brandishing their swords, no one really knows. But seriously, Prime Minister's Department? Katanas? In broad daylight? How did they get there? Where did the katanas come from? Is it weird that I find it funny?

I wanted to buy one of these while I was in Japan. Ended up getting a keychain shaped like a katana instead.

I suppose when all these crimes get publicised, someone decides that it's time they said something. I first heard this news on the radio this morning in the car before I had to go into the office. Apparently, someone (who thought they had to chip in their 2 cents) has called out martial arts experts to play a role in combating crimes in their local areas! For some reason, I laughed - a real laugh out loud kind of laugh, where I slapped my hands against the steering wheel. Seriously, self defence versus parang wielding criminals? The idea is just too insane. 

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Mystery of The Disappearing Book

When I was a kid, I always had my nose buried in one of Enid Blyton's mystery stories. When I was done with those, I graduated to Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and The 3 Investigators.

Now I have a mystery to solve all on my own. (Admittedly, they had more interesting mysteries which involved hiding in cars and spying on people and having their own tree houses as HQ for their top secret meetings, whilst mine is...)

A slim, blue jacketed copy of Wuthering Heights has somehow incredibly disappeared right under my nose. I know that maybe two years from now, I might find it hidden in the fridge or something and laugh and probably blog about it, but for now it's missing. 

I've turned my book cupboards inside out twice, searched other cupboards, searched in travelling bags, in my car and anywhere else books may take a fancy to hide themselves. So, now, despite promising my sister that I could lend my copy to her friend who expressed some interest in reading the book after he was introduced to a song of the same name, I'm of the opinion that I might be unable to fulfil that promise. I've reached a point where I thought that I'd just get a new copy and lend that to him. If I find my original copy, then he gets a free book, if I don't then he can return this copy when he's done - which leads me to the second mystery. 

The two bookstores I visited this week didn't have any copies with them!

So, Wuthering Heights - where art thou hiding?


Friday, July 06, 2012

The Tooth Relic Temple

Continued from Kandy Part 2.

The view outside

Adventures whilst trying to check out the tooth relic. To be honest, I didn't see a thing, and had no idea what I was supposed to see!
The final activity for the night was the visit to the tooth relic temple in Kandy. I don't know why, but probably it was because of all the driving around, we were all really tired and hungry by then. Nevertheless it was only 6:30-ish pm and we still had quite a bit to see. Now, even though we took a customised tour with a tour guide, his job was mainly to drive us around. He subcontracted us to guides from the respective tourist destination all the time. This time we were in the hands of a slightly elderly man who gave us quite the tour. He reminded me of a disciplinary teacher.

Unfortunately due to the importance of this tooth (or some other reason that we never quite understood) we were required to take off our shoes/slippers, go in through a room where were patted down for weapons and had our bags checked. No weapons in sight, they let us in - barefooted. 

The temple of the tooth relic was quite beautiful. After walking around with us and explaining everything he could as quickly as possible (and even forcing us to take photos in certain areas which you were compelled to obey due to his strict disciplinary teacher personality) he forced us into a line, citing how lucky we were to be there at that very moment because the doors were going to be open. The whole problem I had with this is that he led me right into the middle of a line where people had been lining up for minutes/hours? I felt terrible being put in a spot that way. It wasn't important for me to see the tooth when it was opened to the public. These people lining up there could be real believers who might have made their way there in hopes of seeing that elusive tooth, and there I was being put in the middle of the line behind my family (My parents had joined the line earlier while I was at another side taking pictures like he suggested)

When the doors were closed, we moved on to another side of the temple, was given a explanation on the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and also brought to a display of all the statues of Buddha donated by various countries and organisations. It reached a point where I thought I could fall asleep standing when he finally announced that it was time to leave. He ushered us out back to the shoe rack (no case of stolen shoes here, I think), and back to where the van was waiting for us. It was an interesting visit, though, and the temple's guide did a pretty awesome job. It was only tiredness that got in the way. 

It was dinner at the hotel after that. And there was a 3 man, 1 woman band playing old country music to all of us eating there. Dinner (as all food in Sri Lanka) was awesome.

Back in the hotel room, my sister and I almost became pyromaniacs. (Funny story, really)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Kandy (Part 2)


After the delicious spice laden lunch at the spice garden restaurant, we drove on even more to the town of Kandy and checked in to our hotel, which was on top of a hill. That itself may be a clue on the hotel's actual name.

Kandy is what I'd call a town, where there were more streets, shops and lots of vehicles on the road compared to Sigiriya. However, with our hotel being on the hill as it was, we didn't really feel like we were in a town. In fact, we were told to not open the windows because there were monkeys who would pay you unexpected visits. And they're always not the best behaved of guests.

The Cultural Dance
After getting our rooms at the far end of the hotel, we napped and then freshened up and headed out again to town. We had our first cultural experience of the visit here, at a cultural dance show held in a hall. I'm not a fan of dances (neither as a dancer myself, nor as a spectator), but I did think they gave a very good performance. The dance was a series of performances telling different stories of the lives of the people of Sri Lanka. I've misplaced the program paper (no surprise there) but even if it were in my hands, I think I'd spare you all (and myself) from dreary details. Instead, I'll share something my sister and I observed. 

So, in the dance troupe, there was this really tall girl with an awesome midriff, washboard abs and all. We nicknamed her the 'hot girl' and there was also this guy who was tall. They both kind of stood out among the dancers, somehow and we noticed that they occasionally made eye contact with each other, like they both shared some interesting secret about something. I'd have love to have found out what it was.



3 gloomy looking pictures because of my camera settings. They had very interesting costumes, though.

This was one of the more interesting aspects of the dance where the dancer spins the plate on the pole and finally balances it on his forehead

The dance ended about an hour after that and we all went out for the finale, where they walk on fire (or was it charcoal) It was crowded (tourist season in Sri Lanka apparently) and could be a prospective fire hazard if things got out of control. Good thing they didn't. Oh, and when it's all actually over, you're also expected to give some tips.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Kandy (Part 1)

Day 2. Continued from here

A few years back (5, maybe) a (then) random stranger who commented on my old blog told me that he didn't blog because he figured that by the time he got up to posting a post about a certain topic, the topic would have lost all relevance. Today, as I sat in front of the computer, intending to blog about a certain incident that happened recently, I realised that it has lost all relevance. Nevertheless, I am saved by the fact that travel posts may still hold some relevance even though they are more than a year late. At least I hope so. 



We left Sigiriya for Kandy, which was another long, long drive through the *unanticipated rain. Now, as mentioned in the very first post, the people in this trip were my parents, my sister and I, all full grown adults, all equally stubborn and short tempered (except for my mom - she's only stubborn, but not as quick tempered as the rest of us) I mention this only because it may explain what I might decide to write in the next few paragraphs. 

Not too far into our journey we drove in through a gate where there were lots of cars parked, which resulted in us being unable to get a parking spot. I had no idea what this place was (the guide was not very chatty like other guides we've met in other places), and my dad asked me to get down and take a picture of the building behind it because it was raining. Me being blur as I was, duly got down in the rain, took the picture and then we drove off without any question. Looking back, that was a bad move. What was that place and why just take a picture and not go inside? 

Sometime later, we ended up in a wood work shop. Having been to Indonesian wood work shops before, I thought the stuff here was rather similar and couldn't think of anything I'd like to buy. However my parents thought it was the best place they've been to in the whole itinerary (at least I thought they thought that) There was no way prying them off the displays of the shop. They got excited at the sandalwood powder, and a host of other things. It's one thing if they just bought what they wanted straight away, but they didn't. They made at least a few rounds before deciding to get just one small item! My sister and I got annoyed and left the shop hoping that the parents will realise that they've been in there for far too long, but it didn't work. So my sister and I decided to converse with our non-chatty guide who was also waiting outside about the Dambulla Caves (one of the Unesco heritage sites) which we're supposed to visit. 

Guide: We already passed it just now. 
Me/Sis: Huh, when? Why didn't we stop? 
Guide: We did. It's where you took the picture.  

Dambulla Caves :(

Apparently, towards the front of the van (while my sis and I were sitting at the back, oblivious to what was going on) my dad had remarked that it was OK if we didn't stop at Dambulla Caves and the guide had taken his word for it despite the fact that it was in the itinerary and the fact that the people who took the effort to plan the trip (me and my sis) were not consulted. How could they?! 

 This was followed by a long and drawn out argument between us and my dad after we all got seated in the van. If the guide was feeling uncomfortable at all this (our argument was in English, and even if it were not, our voices would have given it away) he didn't show it.

 The next stop was a spice garden in Matale. As expected, even with umbrellas, you can't help getting wet in a spice garden. Nevertheless, due to the rain, the temperature was cool enough for us to walk around without too much discomfort. Though Malaysian cooking uses quite a bit of spices, we don't really get to see the plants where these spices come from unless they're local, so I thought this was one of the more interesting places though I didn't take much photos except for the cocaine plant. Ahem. Towards the end, we were given some hot spiced tea, and ended up buying a whole lot of stuff from their little store. We had lunch at the restaurant in the spice garden itself where they cook with the spices from the garden (I'm just saying, but it makes sense, I think)

The Cocaine Plant

 *Though unanticipated, rain is a recurring theme throughout the vacation in Sri Lanka.