Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Nuwera-Eliya

Continued from here

It seems that every hot country in Asia which has had a history with British people at some point when they were on a travelling and colonising spree, would be left with hills where people live, grow tea and ultimately end up being a tourist destination. That is perhaps why we found ourselves in Nuwera-Eliya, a settlement on top of a hill with sprawling tea plantations and known to the locals as Little England.

We, on the other hand called it a refrigerator. It was cold. Now, I know my previous posts on travels have been lengthy, but I intend to cover this place in one post, and even if it means typing it out in point form, then point form it is:

1. 7 waterfalls en route. You never know you can get OD'd on waterfalls until you actually do.

At this point I just grabbed a photo from inside the van

2. Yes, it rained - on and off.
3. We had the quickest tour of a tea factory with the unfriendliest guide ever.
4. We bought a lot of tea. This was in January 2011, and some of the tea is still sitting in the house, some still in my office drawer, etc. There's only so much tea you can drink.
5. We couldn't visit the town properly because of the rain. Despite being on top of a hill, several places were flooded.
6. We ended up in some deserted garden. The sister and I braved the rain sans umbrellas and took some pictures.

The deserted garden. No idea what the red line is, though.

A building near the garden

One of the pathways at the garden

7. The parents went to a local spa. I didn't want any treatment and neither did my sister, so we sat on plastic chairs with our feet hovering slightly above the floor due to the flood while the parents were pampered.
8. Cold, cold, cold. We had to heat the room with the vapour from the hot shower in the bathroom, and sleep with jeans, jackets and dirty socks (note to self: bring more socks next time and don't burn what you have with you)
9. For the first time ever in this country, the food sucked. It wasn't Sri Lankan food, per se - it was Chinese Sri Lankan food (we weren't given a choice here, it was either this or starve) I usually love Chinese food in Malaysia, and this wasn't even close. Sorry.
10. Watched a bit of local TV with really bad reception. Tried to read, but I couldn't due to all the shivering. How can anyone like the cold? The only person who enjoyed the cold was my mom.
11. We have to give credit to the place, though. It was a beautiful building and had really old decorations and beautiful flowers.

Real flowers. Don't ask me why the red seems pretty artificial.



12. The people of Sri Lanka love their trees.


13. More waterfalls on the way out.
14. Some poor kid was selling paintings to tourists so he buy shoes for school
15. Some local people come after you for money. It's one thing if they try to sell you stuff you don't need, but them asking for it outright made me very sad.

A Smoky Story

Some time ago, there was this episode on "How I Met Your Mother" in which all the characters were trying to quit smoking. Watching that episode (and comparing it with some much older movies/literature) it finally hit me how people's opinion on smoking and smokers have changed. What used to be normal way back is now viewed with some disdain. 

How else do you explain smokers being given a smoking bay where so many of them sit in cramped up spaces to get their fix AND inhale secondary smoke from their fellow smokers, or even while I was in Japan, where it seemed as though everyone smoked, they were forced to smoke in small groups at little ashtrays by the kerb - hardly a sociable activity, or in some areas, they stood in alleyways behind tall buildings in their nice clothes, smoking mournfully in the cold. 

The other day, the papers had a piece on new rules for cigarette manufacturers in terms of packaging size and pricing (among the methods employed to reduce young people from starting to smoke since they could never afford such an expensive hobby to start with) I've attached a screen-shot of the news below.
Click to enlarge


The thing is, while what the government is trying to do to protect the people from the dangers of smoking, little do they know that there are ways employed to manoeuvre around this minimum 20 sticks rule. Well, maybe they do, but they have probably decided to overlook it until someone brings it up. 

I've actually even witnessed this (ahem!) clever act by 2 separate entities. One was a few years ago at the canteen in my workplace where the canteen operator *sold individual sticks all the time to the guys at work, and the second time was just about 2 weeks ago while I was lining up to pay for my food at a nearby Mamak where one of the customers in front of me bought an individual stick from the cashier. So, if the young people the government is trying to protect can't afford 20 sticks in one go, who is to say they can't afford a single stick from a packet opened by some devious business people?

*This might be illegal (it is in the US, but I can't find info about Malaysia)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares: How to Avoid Unplanned and Unwanted Grammar Errors by Jenny Baranick

Eons ago, when I was a student in school, learning English as a second language (though spoken as a first language at home), I met a stumbling block in the form of grammar. Although using correct grammar was never a problem, explaining why I'd pick A over B when given an option between the two was a problem. Without a doubt, my English teacher would have labelled me annoying since I had the cheek to tell her I picked what I did because it 'sounds right'. I'd have been a much better student if I had this book in my grubby hands back then!

Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares: How to Avoid Unplanned and Unwanted Grammar Errors

If you're a follower of the blog that goes by the title Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares, you'll find that the posts explain grammar in a delightfully whimsical style. You'll never know what hit you until the end where you finally realise that you've been given an interesting lesson in grammar. You get an idea of how fun grammar can be just by checking out the title.

This book is an extension of the blog, and will be on sale on Amazon from the 15th of August. In these days where textspeak and truncated words rule and where punctuation is almost non-existent, this book may just help bring back the language to the state it's meant to be.

* Scheduled post

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Evidence Act: In Support of the Internet Blackout Day

"Guilty until proven innocent - if you can find a way to prove your innocence, that is. Ha ha ha ha"



The line above sort of sums up the newly ammended evidence act, where as the owner of a website, blog, e-mail address, facebook or twitter account or even as the owner of wifi connection that someone else is 'borrowing' because your password got hacked, you will be held responsible until you can prove that you're not the one responsible for whatever was posted. How you gather evidence is your choice, but if you can't then be prepared to get sued/go to jail/pay fines, etc. 

In view of this horrible development, the CIJ (Centre for Independent Journalism) is organising our very own Internet Blackout Day on the 14th of August. As I do use the internet for blogging, have various e-mail accounts, and use Facebook as well, plus the wifi connection is registered under my name, I think this is an extremely important cause and I'm in full support of the Blackout. 

So, if you're Malaysian and you use the internet, please join forces to get something done to this act immediately, and bring back "innocent until proven guilty" 

The details can be found here: http://stop114a.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/join-us-and-support-internet-blackout-day/

Monday, August 06, 2012

The Week that Was

It's been a long, long week. Deprived of the much needed mental effects coffee has on me (I'm not phasing coffee out of my life, but due to the fasting month and the fact that the rest of my office is filled with Muslims who are fasting, I have ceased mixing myself a cuppa in the afternoons out of respect for people who would have not had even a sip of water since 6:00 am) and the sudden influx of problems to be solved, I have been having problems sleeping well too. In the end, I'm tired, sleep deprived, irritable and have made zero progress in posting up anything here despite so many interesting things going on. 

Losing Hope on Our Only Gold Medal
I've never been a fan of watching sports on TV. I do watch the occasional football match, but I hate watching badminton. Nevertheless, I sat down and watched last night's men's badminton final on TV, because Malaysia was playing and there was a chance we could win a gold. We've never really been a country to be reckoned with when it comes to international sports, but badminton has always been something we could almost solidly count on. Despite our Malaysian player giving the match his all, he had to settle for the silver. Still, it was well fought match!

Time wasters
Over the weekend when I could have been doing something productive, (or sleep) I stumbled upon a website that subconsciously coerced me into browsing it for hours and hours. It's a treasure trove of all things from the past - old ads, to old magazine covers and photos of people, etc.  I thought I was alone in my insane addiction when I saw someone else's comment saying that he was addicted to the website too! I guess I'll only be happy once I've finished reading/seeing all their archives!


In support of small Independent Businesses
My sister and I went out for some Sunday afternoon book shopping near an aunt's place which is in a different town. We wanted to visit a small independent bookstore that sold a wide variety of hand-picked titles at more competitive prices than the common bookstore chains we have. We don't go there too often because of the distance, but when we do, we get a big pile of  books to fulfill several months of reading requirement. Besides, the owner, being a reader himself, gives you interesting book recommendations, and you can even request him to bring in a titles for you through the bookstore's Facebook page. 

Finding our way to the store in the mall though, we kind of ended up in a different wing and saw another independent book kiosk which had quite a few titles we grabbed in glee. 



Picking and then towing all the books (even between the two of us wasn't an easy task), and we decided to stop for some coffee or ice cream. Instead, after surveying the options, we decided to pick a frozen yoghurt stall that sold (ahem) frozen yoghurt. It's been a minor obsession of mine these past few months - ever since my sister introduced me to a local frozen yoghurt chain. We later found out that this particular frozen yoghurt stall was an independent establishment and that it was the owner of the stall itself who served us, while enquiring if there was a book sale around us after seeing our load of books.

The yoghurt was creamy and delicious and on top of that was free from artificial colouring. There was another woman who was sitting there, enjoying her frozen yoghurt and laughingly admitting to us that she thinks she is addicted to this stuff. I don't blame her. It was really, really good.  

Bookstore: Bookalicious (located in the Summit - USJ)

Frozen Yoghurt: Yogurtbar (also located in the Summit - USJ)