Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Nada Chair

I have meant to blog this last year but other priorities overtook it. I was introduced to this contraption by my son who brought it back from the States in April last year and asked if I would find it useful since I was then wearing another lumbar brace to strengthen my weak lower back. I tried it, awkwardly at first as it seemed to be a Houdini act, trying to bundle myself, but after a few tries I found it comfortable and actually helping to boost the strength of my lower back. What I liked about this device is that it folds up and can be packed for traveling, taking up space about that of a toiletry bag.

I brought it to our Bali holiday and since then I've had the need to use it a few times. What the Nada Chair does is strap up the lower back to the knees which pull the spine forward to a more restful state. The straps can be tightened or loosen to personal preference. It worked because in our natural unsupported state the spine is made to carry the upper torso, bending forward and backward, even sideways. But the Nada Chair stabilises the lower spine and holds it and pulls it forward to relax any tension it had been building up.

I wear the Nada Chair sitting or lying down. Of course it cannot be worn standing up since the knees must be bent to pull the spine forward. Holding the spine forward for just a couple of minutes is therapeutic and relieving. Everytime I find my back asking for some help the Nada Chair becomes a useful aid.

You can find more about this simple but novel product HERE. I think it is only available online.

Note: This is not a paid promotion by the manufacturer. I am just sharing what works for me and do not promise that it will similarly work for you. You should consider your special circumstances and seek medical advice as well as from the product manufacturer before attempting its use.

Seeking God's Face



I believe that if 2 events confirm each other then there is both a message and a warning, not just for myself but for the human society at large. This morning my pastor preached a sermon entitled 'Whom Shall I Trust?' based on Psalm 27 and today's Daily Bible Verse confirms it. Coincidence I think not. Deep within I believe God is sending a message and a warning to me and even the whole human society to seek His face. Look, the human civilisation is crumbling and just yesterday another devastation in the form of a massive 8.8 scale earthquake south central of Chile has killed no less than 300 and affected over 2 million Chileans. How high the statistics will go is anyone guess. Story HERE, HERE and elsewhere. Over a month ago Haiti was struck by a similar disaster that killed over 300,000 Haitians. What else will occur in the coming years no one knows but the urgent message I receive today that I now share in my blog is this:

Seek the face of the Lord for He alone is to be trusted. No one else and nothing can save us from any future events. Life on earth is but a passage to another place. We just need to find a rock to protect ourselves and ensure we get to where we truly want to go after this life.

In times like this we need to believe in somebody larger than us, larger than life. If you already believe in the creator God, draw closer to Him. This Lent season is the right time to reconnect and rebuild. If you are still searching, stop at the Cross of Jesus Christ and ask for direction. Jesus promises life to those who confess and repent of their sins and accept Him as personal Saviour. Do not delay but take this life changing step.

Seek God's face and find favour with Him. Whatever comes next God will enfold you in His arm and draw you into His eternal kingdom and grant you peace and joy.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Y



There are lots of 'Y's in our life. Just this morning I have to decide on 2 'Y's, when I came to junctions to turn left or right to go to the airport and back to the highway. I am happy that we have this alphabet to graphically show what Y-ing is all about.

We Y between choosing which job to take, who to marry, which car to buy, which church to attend, etc. But come the big question: which branch of the Y do we want to take when we leave this world? The left branch takes you to a place you don't want to spend life there forever, it may be just too hot for your comfort and there is no air-conditioning. The right branch takes you to a place where air-conditioning is never required.

We begin life at the foot of Y and moves towards the triangular junction. Like it or not we need to be making a choice to go left or right. Rather not making a choice may force us to the left branch but consciously making a choice may take us to the right branch. The choice is ours.

Life on earth is just one side of eternity. What is on the other side is where the choice need to be made now. In another Bible story, a very rich man found himself on the left branch when he died, and a poor beggar who used to beg at the rich man's doorstep, on the right branch. The rich man bemoaned his wrong choice so asked the poor beggar to go back to earth to forewarn the relatives of the rich man to avoid joining him at the left branch. However that option is impossible because no one who died can ever come back alive to warn the living. Even so, not many will take the warning seriously.

We may be making wrong choices on this side of life, but there is a wrong choice that we should be careful not to make, because it is irrevocable. And unlike our traffic system, no U turn is available to those who made the mistake.

Lent Reflection



I pondered over the remote possibility that God do cry. I said to myself that it is impossible because He is God, and therefore above all human emotions. He just CANNOT be known or seen to cry or else He cannot be God. Then I remember in the Bible that Jesus, the Son of God, wept upon hearing that His friend Lazarus had died (John 11:35). Jesus is the second Person in the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is God manifest as man, and He cried. In the Lazarus story Jesus raised him from death to display His power over death.

I felt vindicated and relieved that my God understands human emotions that He too can share in our sorrows and hurt. Then I felt that our hurts and sorrows are nothing compared to His. We may be hurt by a few people and we crumble but He was and is still being hurt by thousands and millions of people whom He created. They were and are His children and they went against Him and hurt Him daily. I should think that God would be crying at this moment in Heaven for all of us because we've hurt Him so badly through our disobedience. I am one of them. Some of us know we are hurting Him so deliberately while others did out of ignorance, but nonetheless I know that God is terribly sad and disappointed. Yet ...

Most of us would allow the hurt and disappointment to become anger, prejudice, even hatred. But God who placed His image in all of us will not conform to the ways of the world. He respond to our disobedience and disrespect to His sovereignty with the unexpected. He gave us His fatherly love instead. Sometimes I find it difficult to respond the same way but I believe this is what God requires of all of us to conform to His way and to turn our cheeks to every hurt with a response of love. He did that when He have Jesus, His only Son, die on the Cross for our sins. God could have wipe us off the face of this earth in His anger with another flood, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruptions, or pandemic but He chose to use His way of love and reconciliation. He gave Jesus to be the Mediator for our salvation that through Him, we may enter eternal life in Heaven.

I believe that God is using our hurts to restore relationship and Lent is a good time to find that healing. If God can forgive our wrongs so can we forgive others who wrong us.

Missing Holidays



This morning we sent off our daughter and her family at the airport. They are going to have a blast, a long awaited holiday in UK, with their very young kids who may not remember the experience years later but certainly a joy to recall.

My wife and I have not been on holidays much since 2005 when she started looking after our grandchildren. Each time a friend shares his or her upcoming holiday abroad we would feel somewhat envious. We did travel but only to nearby ASEAN destinations and New Zealand but somehow I do hope to be able to go farther, to places we've never been, like Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Canada (again) and enjoy the rioting autumn colours of Maine, USA, before our health and age limits our ability to move around.

On our way home I said to her that this year we need to get away. She had wanted to see South Korea and I said let's make an appointment anytime between September till November. I am sure we will enjoy our time together, alone with ourselves, again.

Will She, Won't She?



The new maid who came about a week ago seems to possess most of the right attributes any employer would like: polite, slow but steady, fast learner, neat and tidy and produces work that satisfies. Yet the lingering worry is whether this is but a 'charade' to impress and build up our confidence or is this the real she.

I read this post of a frustrated maid employer who felt she had been ripped off by the agency and I can't help that the maids themselves are in cahoot with the agent. But a comment about maids today being modern slaves is disturbing. I confess that maids under the present terms of employment get a raw deal, especially under the control of very demanding employers. However, it is not that maids don't know what they are getting into, it is a job they willing apply so it is not a deception nor a trick that they will feel deceived. I am sure most maids accept this as their destiny, to work from dawn to dusk with minimal rest on any and every work they are directed to do. Problems surface when these maids dislike their work, feeling they are made to work against their preferred choice in what they are less capable, or pressured to do beyond what they feel as reasonable, and not treated as a human or appreciated.

Depending on the maturity of the maids, some will get distracted and run away even if they are well treated. Even matured maids will run away or ask to terminate their contracts early if they feel unhappy or misses home.

Employing maids is risky and is best undertaken with caution and careful deliberation. Never become overly dependent that when the maid leaves you are totally lost or forget that they are here to lessen your workload, and not do everything you used to do.

Will she stay the full 2 years or more? Is her performance consistently conforming to her character? Is what she is the recent week the real she? Or is she capable of changing into someone unreliable? Will she missing home make her lose interest and desire to work? These are questions any employer would ask and wish that what they see is what they get, and what she do is what she will always be.

At the end of a contract if the maid had done well, I believe it calls for a celebration. If the maid agrees to an extension and loves her work and performs diligently, I think it will be the best anyone can ask for. I would like our maid to be like this. We have treated her with respect and took care of her cough she contracted because of the hot and dry weather. She, in spite of the cough, was determined to do her best. My hope is what I see is a real reflection of what our maid's character is.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Simpler Fuel Rebate Solution

When I read THIS news I said to myself, "Wow, why did they have to piss on themselves? Why not hold an in-depth discussions with consumer and industry groups first way, way before picking an agreed model to implement? Why shoot your own feet and embarass yourselves?" At least they have the humility to cancel the scheme before it becomes an even greater embarassment. Following this announcement, and upon further reflection of what I proposed yesterday, I thought a really simple and workable scheme would be as follows, BUT it must be an interim measure, say, for a 5 years period, before the subsidy scheme is COMPLETELY scrapped even for the low income groups.

Again, on the premise that the subsidy beneficiaries are privately owned Malaysian registered vehicles up to a certain engine capacity, and for non-commercial uses, my suggestion is to give rebate upon renewal of the road tax, much as the rebate scheme given 3 years ago where owners can redeem their entitlements for cash at any post office nationwide. It has worked and is familiar to motorists so is a workable option. This suggestion takes the heat off the station operators, confine the subsidy to those who deserves them, and spread the pressure since claiming the rebate is after road tax renewal and not when one goes to refuel the tanks.

The only factor that may not be universally acceptable is the quantum of rebate given, and that is no pleasing everyone who should be thankful that they, at least, gets some rebate, for whatever fuel usage they incur.

Better than my previous suggestion, there is no barcoding of any document, no security risks, no room for bribery, no congestions and the scheme is spread over any period of time the government wishes to commit to. The important thing is that the Road Transport database be accurately and efficiently maintained for reliable access.

Cost factor is for the government to work out. They need a budget to pay out the rebates but they will get the fund back from the higher fuel prices at the pumps. OK, we cannot equate the vehicle to the fuel bought but why need such a detailed match when the objective is to give the rebate to where the needs are the greatest, the pockets of those who owns small cars?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Unsubsidising Fuel Subsidy

This must be the headache the Malaysian government faces after years of entrenched right to enjoy subsidies. The honeymoon is ending as the government tries to send the sombre message to the masses: get real, you have to live with the real costs. But this explanation will not be applied to the NEP or New Economic Policy which favors the bumiputeras with special privileges given to them that the rest of Malaysians do not enjoy. For instance, bumiputeras get around 7% discount on houses they buy that the other Malaysians have to pay in full. Put in another way, the developers will have to make more from the other Malaysians to be able to give the discounts to bumiputera buyers. It means the other Malaysians are the ones subsidising the bumiputera buyers. This has become the entrenched right. So has the fuel subsidy that is now being removed come May 1. Most likely the unsubsidised price for RON95 fuel will be RM2.10 per litre while the subsidised price remains at the current pump price of RM1.80 per litre. The poorer Malaysian drivers may actually question the wisdom of this: they have to be inconvenienced now to enjoy the SAME price they and every other Malaysian are enjoying now.

The government had been very hush hush in deciding on the formula of determining who qualifies for fuel subsidy. Until today we don't know which of the following criteria override:

1. Nationality - we know the government wants foreigners disqualified from enjoying purchases of subsidised fuel. This is a reasonable argument but is not the main subset of disqualification as the government also wants to disqualify Malaysians who drive big cars. It seems to be the overriding factor but why it has decided to use MyKad to decide on qualification to subsidised fuel baffles me.

2. Income Level - this is a reasonable premise that those who can afford should not enjoy subsidy but what mechanism is the government depending upon? Income tax records? There has been no discussion nor revelation that those who pay no tax or tax below a certain threshold will enjoy subsidies. Managing this criterion is a headache and not foolproof and personally impractical. It does not appear to be a criterion decided upon by the government.

3. Engine Capacity - the popular basis of determining qualification but incorrect as rich do drive small cars and some poor have a penchant for big cars. Still we cannot please everybody and a common presumption must be made, that is small cars are affordable to the poor and bigger cars to the rich. Those who are the exceptions rather the norm will have to bear with this. This seems to be the acceptable criterion but we don't know yet the cut-off capacity for disqualification nor if mid size engines get less subsidies than small size engines.

So far we have heard that the MyKad which is the identification paper for Malaysian citizens will form the basis of deciding who qualify for subsidy and people have argued why this is a bad idea, like this Letter. I agree. The MyKad is too important to be used as a multipurpose card as it not only shortens its lifespan but also make it more vulnerable to pick pockets as well as identity theft. Unlike credit cards you don't change MyKad every other year and it will be a real hassle replacing a faulty, or a stolen, MyKad.

The government ought to reconsider its plan and not rush headlong into implementing this 'half baked' concept when they have not tapped so many other bright ideas citizens can float for consideration. If they persist I am quite sure the implementation will fall flat. It will create animosity from the car owners and station operators as well as raise the likelihood of increased corruption of unqualified vehicles enjoying subsidies. The government ought to implement the scheme on a pilot test scale first, fine tune it before extending it nationwide. And forget about using MyKad. If the government decides to base the subsidy on engine capacity, I wish to suggest the following method which is simple and almost foolproof:

The method is based on the government issuing fuel rebate coupons to registered vehicle owners who qualify at the point of renewing the vehicle road tax at the Road Transport Department. The coupons will be barcoded, the same as the vehicle road tax disc (also to be identically barcoded to create a perfect match with the coupons so the coupons cannot be used on any other vehicles).

The value of the rebate coupons is calculated on a fixed formula of average fuel usage for a 6/12 months period of a particular make and average consumption in that period. Doesn't matter if the owner drive less or more, an average must be assumed. Those who drive a lot will unfortunately not enjoy full subsidy on the excess fuel beyond the average but those who drive less will enjoy more as he can redeem the full value of all the coupons in any number of visits. The full value of the rebate coupons is a given thing to that vehicle whatever its usage.

By marrying the coupons to the registered vehicle several advantages can be felt immediately:

1. No chance of abuse such as a luxury vehicle getting subsidized fuel at the pump by the driver bribing the pump attendant.

2. Every vehicle pays FULL price so there is no necessity to scan MyKad to identify who qualifies.

3. Only those who can produce a rebate coupon that matches the vehicle he drives can get the cash rebate from the station who later claims the amount from the government upon presentation of documentary evidence. This may dismay the operators but the government should be able to work out a fair solution to control extra cashflows by the operators.

4. It is possible for a driver to use up all his coupons in 2 or 3 visits but he will not enjoy any more cash rebates thereafter. And he cannot sell his coupons as they are worthless for another vehicle, but he can sell them to the next owner since the coupons are not linked to the owner but the vehicle. The coupons also expire with the road tax expiry as it is expected the renewed road tax will have a new barcode.

5. At the implementation level what happens is that the driver presents both road tax disc and coupon(s) for scanning to get a perfect match. The coupon(s) are then exchanged for cash and the driver proceeds to pump the gas, whatever the amount or value, and leave. He of course pays in FULL and there is no necessity to have dual pricing at the pumps.

Any method proposed to manage the unsubsidising of the fuel subsidy will involve some cost, inconvenience and some security risks. I feel that the above idea is just, driver friendly and minimize corruption and delivers the subsidy directly to those who deserves it. And it does not require the use of MyKad. And foreign registered vehicles will certainly not pay subsidised price since subsidy in the form of rebate coupons are given directly to qualified Malaysian owned vehicles.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Royal Meeting

Yesterday I was informed that the Tunku Ampuan Besar (equivalent to the queen of the state of Negeri Sembilan) would like to meet me and other representatives of the association that I head to get a better understanding of our work. The reason is that the TAB has been requested to be the royal patron of a fund raising golf tournament. A group of five of us, including the initiator of this fund raising drive, met not just the queen but also her husband, the Yang DiPertuan Besar or Yamtuan (the king of the state) as well. It was really a bonus meeting and shows the keen interest the royal couple has in our association.

The meeting was informal although we all felt a little nervous at the beginning over the protocol we are supposed to follow but their royal highnesses treated us without any royal air. I appreciated this very much as it enables me and my team the directness in answering all the questions they raised without fumbling.

The charity golf tournament has been fixed for May 22 in a well known golf resort in Nilai, N. Sembilan. We hope that the effort will raise a substantial sum towards the building fund project of the association to cover the costs of repair, renovation and equipping of the building.

I would have loved to show a picture of the meeting but being unsure if it is permitted I did not bring along my camera. Pity! I'm sure there will be other occasions the royal highnesses would allow us to have us take pictures with them for our souvenirs.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lent Starts Today



Lent begins today. It is a period of 40 days leading to Easter Sunday. A more detailed explanation of this season is given here in Wikipedia. Lent gives Christians the opportunities to reflect upon their faith and ponder over their relationship with their Saviour, Jesus Christ, who came to save the world. Some Christians fast, other do charity works, many would confess their sins and seek repentance. The general purpose of Lent is to get back to a right relationship with God.

I began Lent with leading my church in worship this morning. I am tasked as a liturgist about once every 4-6 weeks. It has been so for over 10 years. I consider it a heavy task because a liturgist 'conducts' a church service. He is the 'master of ceremony', the one who calls the worship to order and lead the congregation in prayers. It is a task I cannot do alone because it is God's hand working through me and I have to invoke His help through the Holy Spirit. The day before any liturgy duty I would pray that God would empower me to do well. I am thankful that today I had carried out my role satisfactorily.

Lent usually finds me in a spiritual desert, that is to say I had wandered away from the springs into places that are spiritually dry. Sometimes the cares and the temptations of the world dries up one's soul which cries for sustenance. Being in Lent mood means I am reminded to find my way back to the springs of my life to be refreshed and redirected. I find Lent both important and meaningful. People stray and occasions like Lent help us regain our directions.

Are you a Christian? You ought to seek God again if you too thirst for that 'Living Water' that quenches you.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Maid Arrives

It is something we expect as well as hope not to expect but for the sake of having additional help my daughter who recently delivered her 2nd child decided that a domestic maid is a necessary choice. Having made a photo-selection a few months ago we wondered if she is really as she appeared at the agency today we held our breath when the agent calls out her name to come out of the kitchen.

The initial impression is that she is of medium built, not a bad looker, appears neat and soft spoken. When asked to display the contents in the travel bag she brought we were impressed by the neatness and completeness of her clothings and toileteries. Hopefully this is reflected in her work later. Back home we got her to bathe and gave her basic instructions of what work is required. The coming days will show if she is as capable as her looks.

We have personal experiences of lazy and untrustworthy maids so we will deal with this one with a little sceptism but lots of prayer and hope that she will be a good worker and companion to the children. I believe that there are more good maids than bad ones. Some maids are made good by the way we handle them while others are made bad by poor treatment. Yet some are really unsuitable to work as maids and came in with wrong expectations. Will I have a nice followup post later on this issue? I certainly hope so.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Some Call it Fate ...

I went back to visit my mother over the Chinese New Year. Unless absolutely armed with a valid excuse I would always go back to see her and to a lady who is 83 and awaiting to meet her Maker, meeting her children and families as often as they can make it is her greatest wish. Can I not say the same about me when I attain her age, God willing?

On the 3rd day of the CNY I drove home. It was a good drive withou any traffic jam. I hate to sound self serving but I think not going with the pack helps, but not everybody who balik kampung (return to the village, literally speaking) can choose to avoid the jams like I can (I am semi retired by the way). I had the highway almost to myself, OK, not to myself alone but a few hundred other motorists.

That evening we had a makan (dinner) at the hawker centre behind where mother stays with her and my brother and children. Upon getting home we found the house in pitch darkness. I thought maybe the air-conditioning is overloading the main fuse as the weather had been hot as hell. My brother did some investigation and found the refrigerator shorted. Most likely the electric motor had burned itself out after some 14 years of faithful service. Everything dies one day, you know, and not just humans.

My option is repair or replace. Thinking over the night I had to choose to replace the faulty fridge with an equivalent unit as repairing is too time consuming and unpredictable. Mother was grateful and happy that I was there to handle her problems.

Why did the fridge 'decide' to fail on the very day I came home and not the days before (when my sister came back) or the following day (when I would have left my mother on her own to resolve this knotty problem)? I don't know but it seems that something is just ordained to happen in the timely manner that cannot be explained. As it is, the fridge failed when I was at home and was able to help buy a new one the next day* and had it installed just a few hours before I leave mother's house.

* if the fridge had failed the day earlier no electrical shop would be opened as they had all closed for the new year holidays.

I cannot understand the impeccable timing but I think God made it happen so my mother's comfort and security are taken cared off. She felt good that this new year she got a new fridge. I am not a fatalist but someone who believes that every event happens for its own purpose. I think that God brought the timing of the 'death' of the fridge to my returning home so we, my mother, my brother and I, who are Christians, can testify that God indeed watches over His faithful followers. The incident of February 16 night is indeed an occasion to glorify God and praise Him for His providence.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Double Celebration



It is a happy morning. To some of you it is a deary and cold morning you awake to. Winter in the northern hemisphere is particularly severe for some of you and in the south the summer equally fierce. For me, the period of February has always been hot and dry as far as I can remember when I associate it with the shedding of leaves. Indeed the mango tree outside my perimeter fencing is shedding so much leaves that it seems it is replacing a new crown of young shoots. I am praying that the dry weather will gve it a chance to flower and bear a fresh crop of juicy mangoes.

Happy Lunar New Year to all my Chinese readers. If you are not, happy holiday. But certainly the universal feeling of love is also celebrated coincidentally today. Whether we really express it or not, Valentine's Day is for every body. Unless you are an unloving person or don't believe in love, Valentine is for YOU.

So I wish you a happy Valentine's Day today and may it be a time of reconnecting and reexpressing your feelings to your spouse, your fiance/fiancee, your boyfriend/girlfriend.

And to those lucky ones who also celebrate today as YOUR birthday, well, ain't you a lucky person. Best wishes goes to you especially because this combination comes only once in a million years I think.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Where Are My Visitors Coming From?



I am poor in tracking where my visitors are coming from. I installed Feedjit and GeoCounter to get a visual indication and I realised that I am getting attention from places I least expected. For example, Feedjit reports my blog was sighted by visitors from relatively unheard of countries that I cannot pronounce correctly. Makes me wonder if these countries really exist! But I am glad that my blog gets read far and wide.

While some visits come from familiar sites like facebook and other blogs there are a sizeable number who stumbled from of all places, images.google.com. I decide to play detective and discover that the only way these visitors could have find my blog is if they google 'mrs brown daughter' in the search box, which bring up my blog twice in the first page, of which the first spot is linked to my blog. Then there were no links until pages 12 and 13 when a block of 5 or 6 pictures again link to my blog. What got me curious to have this exercise is that visitors, probably first timers, were directed straight to my August 2008 posts instead of the current one. The links from Google Image Search indeed lead all of them to this particular post. Now I know, but what gets me curious is why would people google Mrs Brown Daughter? Or maybe they tried 'Peter Yew' for that too will bring up a few links to this blog and other websites where I am mentioned.

Back in August 2008 when I started this blog I chose this curious name to connect me to a period of my teenage years when I cultivated puppy love with a girl next door. So the title and lyric reflected much of how I felt then. Well, the love story did not have a happy ending but I do have a happy family now with a different girl who gave me 3 kids, all married, who gave me 4 grandkids. Hopefully a few more will come before they call it a day.

I used to get 10-12 visits to this blog until mid January this year when the 'popularity' soared for unknown reasons to three times that. I have no idea why. The only misgiving I have is that my visitors are the silent type. They read and go and hardly leave comments, which is just as well if you look at it from the angle that maybe they come from such varied backgrounds that they cannot inter-relate well, or maybe they do not visit regularly, or my posts are not 'worthy' of an feedbacks. I am just glad that after 18 months into this project Mrs Brown Daughter is doing pretty OK but nowhere near those blogs that struck hundred of thousands or million visits.

In a way my preference reflect my character as well. I'd rather be relatively unknown than somebody in the limelight.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Toyota Lesson

This is from a Toyota manager on his reaction to the massive recall of several Toyota models arising from faulty accelerators and brakes.

“The difficulty when a company — any company — becomes big is that employees become detached from the problems,” said one Toyota manager, who like most others asked not to be named. “When you can’t do anything about this, that’s how companies fail. But our job is to drill this sense of crisis into as many employees as possible.”

Pride and ownership used to be the hallmark of the Japanese work culture. Although the business may not belong to the workers but their loyalty and sense of association with a well run business gave them pride and joy to be associated with the company. I think we still have that pride too. How often a parent beams with pride when he announces, "My son, he works with Intel" or "He is a manager with Microsoft".

Being associated with a successful business usually means you want to stay and climb your career ladder there until your retire. You adapt to the corporate culture, you make friends there, and you give your best to ensure both your employer and yourself forge a great synergy. You will almost definitely be happy and focussed in your job, no, call that career.

But this is almost the case with professionals within the company with good pay and incentive packages. But for every successful pro on his way up a narrow career path that not every executive can find himself in, there will be 3 or more disillusioned or frustrated ones who do their work just in fair exchange for their pay, nothing more. There are no sacrifices, no ownership, no pride.

The downfall of a joyless work means problems are no longer attacked with the ferocity and creativity that owners tend to apply. Problems are shifted from one section to another and as long as they stay unsolved they emerge as someone else's problems. Like a monster it will grow larger and even out of control.

How do we prevent problems from ending up on our customers' lap? When a company grows too big, relationship becomes impersonal. Every employee takes care of his own turf, there is little co-operation to help each other. Motivating employees gets harder unless departmental heads keeps the momentum and incentives high. Most of all the reward structure must keep them happy but as with all competitions, it is a trade off between costs and quality.

Higher costs usually means higher quality, and services, and vice versa. In a competition, consumers want lower price and high quality. At some point this mismatch will result in a failure of product, or higher failure rate. Mass production may lower costs but also create higher risks of mass failures, like what is happening to Toyota. You cannot detect defects fast enough to stop their production, assembly and distribution. Sometimes defects take months or years to surface, by which time much damage has occurred. In order that product defects are minimised, strong research and development teams must be formed to test them strenuously and rectify any design and specification flaws before mass production starts.

Other causes may be failure to vet vendors adequately to maintain a high product quality standard. Another real cause is a lackadiasical attitude when testing and checking become so routine and very few faults and flaws are discovered, technicians and engineers can become overly confident and even reduce the frequency of such control inspections.

The Toyota lesson is about span of control. The longer the span the harder the control. Perhaps this is a lesson against growing too big. Personally I am more comfortable with mid size operation but in business you may not always be able to control its growth path.

The eventual wisdom I learn is to always re-accentuate your core values to both yourself, your key management team members, your clients, your supervisors and workers and to remind each other what the business is all about. People forget, get discouraged and disorientated. We need to be kept on our toes lest we commit a major mistake that cost not just money but a loss in reputation and goodwill. Toyota will recover from this mistake but it will take several years to regain its momentum and market leadership.

Are We Being Sieged by Malfunctioning Softwares?




I wish to relate 2 reports and one incident that have convinced me that softwares we built into our appliances and equipment may not run as per the codes written into them and creating havocs in our lives.

The first case was from a Camry owner who was nearly killed by his own car. This was what he wrote (and I don't expect it to be a hoax).

From: Cyril, New Jersey
February 5th, 2010
2:10 pm

My concern is that it appears Toyota hasn't figured out the root cause of these problems. Let me focus on my 2007 Camry which nearly killed me on Friday January 29, 2010. From my viewpoint, here are some key issues.

(1) I was slowly easing into a parking spot in the parking lot. So the speed of the car could not have been more than 3 to 5 miles per hour. Note that I was not entering the parking lot; I was easing already in the parking lot and was easing into a parking spot -- so I was almost at a full stop.

(2) I was about at most 2 feet away from the curb at the end of the spot I was parking into.

(3) The next thing I realized was that the car had sped off at an uncontrolled speed. The impact on the curb caused the front passenger side tire to burst. That may have been the only reason I am alive today because with one of the front tires gone, the car could not continue with the speed at which it made impact with the curb. After about 10 seconds or so, the car stopped when I regained composure and applied the brake.

One more point: I had experienced some jerking of the car previously. On its own, the car would jerk and return to normal. I would wonder if that was a transmission problem. However, this was sporadic and did not appear to bother me enough to warrant a shop visit. This is a 2007 Camry with just about twenty thousand miles. So for all intents and purposes, could be considered a new car.

So here are my concerns:

(1) If the Camry just had a sticking gas pedal, what is the likelihood that the car could have gained enough acceleration and speed to make the impact it made with the curb? Recall that I was very close to the curb --about 2 to 3 feet from the curb. My car was almost at a full stop. I sincerely believe that when my car sped off, it must have hit the curb at about a speed of 50 miles per hour or more.

(2) This curb is about 6 to 9 inches high. Given how close I was to it, I don't think that starting from almost zero mile per hour, the car could have gathered enough momentum to hit the curb, jump over it, cause the tire to burst and continue ahead uncontrolled.

(3) I am not an expert on cars. However, at a minimum, I have basic common sense that leads me to some suspicion.

(4) Loosely speaking, I consider a stuck gas pedal a mechanical problem. I don't know how a stuck gas pedal can cause the car to accelerate from zero mph to what looked to me as no less than 50 mph -- in a distance of about 2 feet. I strongly suspect that this is a software problem.

The change in speed from almost being at rest to almost 50 mph nearly instantaneously is more likely to be a result of electronic/software malfunction than a stuck gas pedal.

I am worried that even after Toyota inserts the small corrective metal in the pedal, the problem may still be there. Wouldn't it be unforgiveably tragic if anyone should get hurt or die from a run-away Toyota after the corrective metal has been inserted?

2nd case was from a report I read, a very lengthy one. If you want to read it is HERE. I was shocked to find a similar report which I copy and paste below:

One of the Toyota officials in the room, Chris Santucci, had spent two days the week before in a deposition room being grilled by lawyers for the family of a 77-year-old Michigan woman who was killed in 2008 when her Camry took off uncontrollably and slammed into a tree just four blocks from her home.

In a similar move that has prompted criticism and drawn at least one lawsuit in California, Toyota quietly fixed a problem with the brakes on the Prius for vehicles still on its Japanese assembly line in January.

But consumers were not informed that Toyota had found the flaw or developed a fix for the software controlling the Prius brakes until safety engineer Yokoyama told reporters in Tokyo on Feb. 4.

The 3rd case was personal but did not involve a vehicle but a mini-compo. My daughter has a JVC mini-compo that plays radio and CDs in the hall. A few days ago she said the volume suddenly went up by itself without any human intervention. The volume control knob had been set low to provide soft background music when the sound suddenly went very loud before someone nearby had to manually bring it down.

It seems weird when equipment start behaving erratically as if they are coming alive and taking control of what THEY want to do rather than what they had been programmed to do. Each time we start a car engine, drive it off, switch on the air-conditioning, adjust the seats, turn on the radio, round the corner, accelerate/decelerate, brake and park, different sets of computerised instructions are sent from the command console to the various components. If any of these commands are not executed or misrouted a major tragedy awaits, like the examples above.

I think whether we own Camrys, Prius or any other brands/models, it is worthwhile to pay attention to how our vehicles behave. I believe little signs like what Cyril reported of jerkiness in his car ought to send a strong signal that the car electronic circuitry is starting to malfunction. Stop driving and report the observation to the nearest service centre of that particular vehicle brand.

Have a computer exploded while being used? Or erase data by itself?

Do you encounter a TV set switching itself on and off or changing channels mysteriously?

What about your cellphone auto-dialing to friends in your phonebook or sending out messages from your inbox?

The above may be out of the world but I am not sure if the Toyota software glitches are the only cases we are hearing about. Sticky accelerators? I think this may be just a cover-up to a larger problem.

Bad Publicity, Good Pressure

Much as I dislike bad reports about my country I welcome those that are objectively carved out to warn the political and religious leaderships of the country the damaging consequences unless they are resolute in overcome the accumulating woes that are surfacing one after another. It is like fire fighting a growing flame that unless quickly doused will consume all the good we achieved over the past 5 decades. Read THIS report for yourself.

Malaysia is a heaven on earth, easy to manage but under greedy, incompetent and visionless as well as wishy washy leadership will become wasted. It is a shame that we are now being pressured by external forces to restructure our society to survive. Big question: will the leadership listen and change? Or will they be booted out at the next election? Time will tell.

Unpopular Victory



I awoke this morning to read the headline in STAR (self proclaimed 'The People's Paper) screamed

MB battle over
Federal Court declares Zambry the rightful Mentri Besar

It did not surprised me. I had been notified by a text message over my cellphone of the court's decision yesterday afternoon. It also did not surprised me as the Barisan government will ALWAYS win court battles against its opposition no matter how ridiculously unconstitutional or illogical or even illegal the rulings are. It is after all the Barisan government that controls the judiciary which is no longer independent to decide on cases of law, especially when they implicate the government. Small cases, OK, but major ones will always go to the Barisan. This has become the norm that the people has come to accept (not accepting the decision but the expected outcome).

So it has not surprised me when I read the headline. The online version carries a slightly different lead story but the contents are the same, glorifying the victory as if the Barisan government deserves it. Read the full story HERE. PM Najib appealed to the people to give Zambry a chance HERE. This prompts my questions to him,

"Why did you not give Nizar, the Mentri Besar you ousted a chance to perform?" Just because he was from the Opposition Pakatan make him less capable to rule Perak? Should we not subscribe to the concept that the peoples' choice should lead? "Did you not sell out Perakians by forcing a change of government illegally by manipulating the palace?"

In the hearts and minds of majority Perakians who watched this fiasco with shame and incredulity they have already made up their minds, however well Zambry performs his duties, how broad his smile may be splashed across the pages of newspapers, or how many billion ringgit development funds are pumped into the state. Their minds are already hardwired to decide that when power is released into their hands to vote next they will CHOOSE the Menteri Besar they like and have faith in. They made the CHOICE on March 8, 2008 but barely a year later, on February 6, 2009, their choice was overturned when an imposter was installed.

Mainstream papers which are owned by the Barisan government cannot report the reactions not in the government's favour. But read the blogs and news portals you will discover a different mood and sentiment. Here are some updates in the aftermath of the court decision.

Pakatan gives up, to work with BN in Perak
What Next for Perak?
Has the law become an ass? (very good commentary)

Some comments found in cyberspace:

As bad as the decision seems, perhaps it is a blessing in disguise. If Mohd Nizar Jamludin had won, Umno wouldn't have given him or the Pakatan Rakyat team an easy life for remainder of their term. I doubt the Perak royal palace would have been very accommodating either.

All of this shows us that the most important plan of action is to capture the federal government. Then, we can amend the laws to deal with political 'frogs' and the many other problems that afflict the entire structure of democracy in Malaysia. For now, let Umno enjoy their victory. They may have won the case, but they lost the people's hearts.

As Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah put it, Umno practices a sham democracy. It is a matter of time before its house of cards drops permanently. It is also good to confirm the extent of Umno's reach, though this does not bode well for Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial.

We reject this decision and we shall demonstrate this with the results of the next election in Perak.

A sad day for democracy in Perak. A terrible day for Malaysia. The decision on who should form the rightful government in Perak should be left to the people, especially when BN usurped that choice by affecting the switching of allegiance of corrupt representatives.

It was the day democracy died in Malaysia. I always thought that only the state assembly can sack the menteri besar, not the sultan. Now, the people's choice can be usurped by the sultan. What a sad day.

Justice is dead. I hope the rakyat remembers this day when their turn comes to vote. An illegitimate government became legitimate today.

Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin shall remain our MB of Perak. Sooner or later, we shall return him to his rightful place. In the meantime, let's remain calm and focus on how to serve the people. Let them know that Pakatan Rakyat is still strong and cares for them.

These five judges have entered into the same category and same class as Augustine Paul. (Read my post HERE on this former judge who died infamously)

I always believe that the government is a servant to the people who puts them in power. But it now appear that our government has become a sort of monster that begins to control its master, the people. Which reminds me of the current problem affecting many Toyota vehicles which are suspected to be due to software malfunction. It is worrying that the softwares our engineers write can turn around to inflict harm on their creators.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

BN Won in Court, But Not Necessarily the Hearts



After a protracted legal battle that lasted nearly 2 years, Dr Zambry of BN was finally declared the rightful Menteri Besar of Perak at the apex Federal Court decision today. Read HERE. BN won legally but has it really won over the hearts of the Perakians? Many Malaysians still believe that BN stole Perak by force and no court judgment is going to change that. A recent street survey indicated 74% of the respondents wanted a snap poll to allow the voters to make the decision who they want, BN or Pakatan, to govern them. Some may go in mourning that the judges who ruled unanimously has taken the political climate as a guide rather than the principles enshrined in the constitutions. Whether BN will continue to rule Perak after the next state election remains to be seen but surely Pakatan will not let this ruling rest easy. They will organize roadshows and hold talks to keep the memory of the infamous powergrab of Feb 6, 2009 alive. There will surely be enough supporters and sponsors to keep BN on its toes.

Photo credit: theNutgraph

Interesting commentaries that dispute the court verdict HERE and HERE.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Worrying Toyota Glitches



Eversince Toyota first reported that it plan to voluntarily recall several models for faulty accelerators or brakes over a month ago, panic is starting to feed the automative market, industry and consumers, especially Toyota owners, if these problems are but just the tip of a larger problem that Toyota Motors is reluctant to admit for fear of damaging its reputation as the largest automobile maker in the world. At the onset the scale and scope of the causes for recall were kept small and mild so as not to cause undue panic, but when the problem persisted and with new complaints surfacing, the time has arrived for the CEO of Toyota Motors Inc himself to publicly apologized for the trouble the failed components are causing the owners. It may not be just inconvenience of sending in the vehicles for changing the repair kits but the potential risk that anytime anywhere a Toyota may start to cause accidents the drivers are not in control of.

I myself owned 2 Toyotas, both Camrys of the 1999 and 2009 models. I am happy with them and was not, until yesterday, worried that my cars fall under the recall category. That is when I received an email that carried a feedback on how a Toyota owner raised the likelihood that software may be another reason why some Toyotas behaved erratically. So as not to spread unnecessary panic, since the story was not verified, no sane Toyota owner should write off this possibility. The likelihood of a malfunctioned Toyota nearby causing an accident that involve a bystander or another vehicle is real. This was my email reply:

I have 2 Toyotas so in perspective I should be triply worried if I add on the third being a target of a malfunctioned Toyota nearby. Thankfully both behaved normally but the points Cyril raised below is worrying as it introduces a new dimension which is non-mechanical. So far I wonder if there have been any Toyota vehicle accidents more throughly investigated, such as like the investigators re-visiting them with the magnifying lens of a CSI approach. It is horrifying if Cyril's concerns are accurate but then suppressed or not recognized. Maybe putting Toyota in the public glare now will make safety experts sit up and go after the various models with a very critical eye. Having the Prius recalled also may point to something even more sinister. I just think that the Toyota component failure, followed by the voluntary recall by Honda of its City model, is just the tip of the iceberg of a larger automotive design problem. Similar problems may already exist in many other makes and models and the coming months may reveal if this nightmare is ending or worsening.

I just pray that Toyota will repair the faults in time without any untoward incidents. As for me my faith and trust in Toyota is still intact. This episode hopefully is a lesson to all mass produced consumer equipment manufacturers to throughly test every components for their safety before putting them into the market. I am not talking only of cars but also computers, laptops, LCD television, cell phones, wireless headsets, etc. Often an existing design that has been safely used for decades is a better bet that replacing it with an unproven modified design. Where life and safety are involved technology must be throughtly vetted before lives are put at risks. Consumers must never be guinea pigs without consenting to any tests.

Read here for some current news.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Can I F***k you?



Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial kicked off with a sensational revelation that the victim Saiful was crudely apprehended to provide sexual favour to Anwar. Read this opening script and HERE as well and, if you want, follow through the rest of the scenes in the coming days and weeks.

Honestly I cannot understand the shamelessness this shamble is doing to all of us. It is so un-Malay to expose bedroom matters and yet they are not bothered if they have to do it to remove Anwar at all cost. Right or wrong Malaysia is being f***ked by this court case for all the world to see all because of political pressure to kill Anwar off. I have no where to hide my face for now.

As an aside, someone forwarded me this astonishing picture at the Singapore checkpoint with Malaysia. I am not sure if it is authentic but appear to be so. It said, "Welcome to Singapore. Church Burning Prohibited Here" translated from Bahasa Malaysia. While we are seriously worried about how the 'Allah' issue is going to end, take this with a pinch of salt. I doubt the Singapore government was responsible for this signboard, if it really exists.

Malaysia's Complicated and Divided Politics

It is time for both government and oppositions to sit down to hammer out a solution to the dangerously complex Malaysian political struggle. Both sides try to outdo each other to gain public sympathy and votes but never really put in place practical and workable solutions to what afflict us. We recognised the symptoms, we know the cure but we seems crippled to apply the right solutions. Over the past 5 years or so we have read and heard of what went wrong and what need to be done. Yet we are nowhere near to solving our problems but rather allow them to worsen. Today we see racism reaching new heights. Read HERE and HERE. Racism is also the root cause of the recent attacks on the houses of worship although it is religious but it still boils down to race, since the 'battle' is between the Malay/Muslims and non-Malay/Other religions. The gap between these classes has widened so badly that I wonder if having inter-faith dialogues are meaningful or productive. Read HERE and HERE. There are divergent views and again the lack of resolve to find a solution to the 'Allah' issue. It is so typical of UMNO to delay solving contentious problems until they are forgotten. Bu like peat fire they stay alive and ready to burst into flame when the conditions are right. In a way UMNO is playing with fire and putting the nation at risk. While the Pakatan Rakyat attempts to hold dialogues to understand and appease the various religious groups, their efforts are often seen as 'opposition' so does not get the support of the government. It is really immature and shameful that the Barisan government has to view opposition efforts as unworthy to support even if the know they are for the good of society and religion.

Much of the blame must be put on individual politicians who fail to address the morality of the problems raised, especially UMNO politicians. Some would see those who questions the NEP and the 'Allah' issue as question Malay rights. It is an over-simplistic way of looking at these problems. It appear that right or wrong, party loyalty is more important than criticising party stand even if these politicians believe it to be wrong. Finally UMNO stalwart Tengku Razaleigh dared to break camp to fight for his state's oil royalty. It is disappointing that retired PM Tun Mahathir failed to exercise statesmanship to take a moral stand when he condemned the Tengku. It seems that anything against the party views is deemed 'opposition'. This kind of myopic and selfish outlook is unbecoming and detrimental to national unity and development. Whether solutions are Barisan or Pakatan sponsored politicians must look from the perspective of nationhood rather than race and religion. Like it or not, Malaysians of all races are tied together by our heritage. For some to challenge the Chinese and Indians who are unhappy with the way our nation has evolved to go back to our countries of origin is both seditious and childish. Division along racial and religious divide will be the eventual downfall of Malaysia unless every politicians take courage to stand firm on what he or she believe to be morally just and correct and vote according to their conscience. Be ever ready to criticise those of your own party and race/religion if you believe their stands are wrong. Being silent embolden those who do wrong to commit more wrongs.

Today Anwar Ibrahim goes in trial on sodomy charge, dubbed as Sodomy II. It is popularly viewed as a scheme to destroy Anwar's political resurrection and cripple Keadilan which he leads and Pakatan which he is the de facto leader. It appear that Barisan has ungloved its hands to fight dirty. This, and the Perak Power Grab 11 months ago, which see the ongoing battle to settle who is the legitimate Menteri Besar (chief minister) this Feb 9 federal court case, will determine the course our judicairy is taking to declare a moral judgment instead of a political judgment.

The time is now for Malaysian politicians not play dangerously int the hands of those who wants to destroy the delicate society that we proudly proclaim to the world as 'Truly Asia'. Whatever we call our vision - 2020, 1Malaysia, Middle Malaysia, etc, what is truly important is seek common identity rather than differences. Build respect, understanding and tolerance. Only when we see each other through the eyes of our common future can we resolve our differences and move ahead as one nation. Just as all religions preach goodwill and peace so do our politicians. What we need is to put them into real practice.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The US Is Watching

I was given this 'old' report which I think, if it is true, will surely squeeze the Malaysian government into taking a more serious and democratically acceptable solution to the problems that has been mishandled. Will the US government really apply trade sanctions against us? I doubt so but we will certainly be hurt if we are blacklisted, downgraded or giving some sort of warnings. Such negative reports will impact our attraction to foreign investments, tourists and international students. A wrong step by the Najib administration can send the nation years backward that may take decades to recover as other developing nations around us surge ahead when the world recovers from recession. Najib must be bold and firm to walk this tightrope and avoid a fall that takes the nation plunging down.

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