Friday, May 28, 2010

Malaysians at a Crossroad

Malaysians awake this morning to fearful days ahead. The government has announced a progressive hike in prices of fuel, essential food items, gas, toll rates, healthcare and education. Read more details HERE and HERE.

Yesterday the minister in the PM department, Idris Jala, has warned that if the government do nothing the nation will become bankrupt in 9 years. We also read HERE that next year we will become a net oil importer. Last year at the 2010 budget presentation, PM Najib declared he wants Malaysia to become a high income society. How he will do that is unclear but surely making it a high expenditure society has started. Strategically we should have become a progressively high income nation over the years through higher productivity and greater knowledge and skill enhanced society but we were stuck in the rut. Whatever greater knowledge and skills enhanced community we developed had been lost via brain drain so that we have become a net loser of our better human capital, attracting only unskilled foreign labour while losing our best to other nations.

Were we all living in denial and in isolation from the real cost environment all these years under the government’s subsidized policies? Were these subsidies part of the larger NEP that was meant to keep them in power? No doubt every citizen wants the government to pay for or at least continue to subsidise services we enjoy. Our contention is that since we’ve paid tax to the government it must deliver services in return. And talking of tax, I don’t expect it to reduce to match the hike in the prices announced. Remember that the GST has not been implemented yet. Doing so will cancel the impact the government want to achieve, that is to earn what it will lose from oil revenue. The bottom-line is this:

To fund government projects when oil revenue declines or depletes it has to go after alternative sources of income, which is more taxes from the people and businesses or, at this stage, taking back subsidies.

In the coming years we have to be prepared to endure more financial pain. Think about these:

1. Income will not rise as fast as to match higher cost of living, leading to little or no savings, which will affect welfare of the retirees with low savings in 20-30 years.

2. Crime rate will rise as desperate people will plunder and steal to meet their basic needs. Policing the streets and housing estates will be stretched. People will become more suspicious, less trusting, less sociable, more isolated.

3. The quality of life among the average income group will decline as they live on standard and sub-standard quality food and healthcare.

4. Society will be more, not less, corrupt. Any wage increase will not be able to match rising cost, which has not built into it the inflation factor. As people fear for their future security they will risk being caught by openly asking for bribery.

5. Generally a very unhappy Malaysian society who is not used to being taxed so heavily to live in this land which is supposed to be a-plenty.

6. Unhappiness leads to anger and desire to change government in the hope that the people will see better days ahead.

7. Trust in the present government will diminish in the belief that they have not managed the economy well under the 52 years of continuous rule.

8. The Barisan government is trapped in a Hobson choice situation but Malaysians will not want to be sympathetic nor understanding because their thinking is that the government had not been prudent, nor far sighted in managing our natural resources.

9. The 13th general election may produce another crossroad situation for Malaysians.

Who suffers? Those middle income families and those in debt, especially having bought new houses and expensive cars. Interest rates will rise which means higher loan repayment. They may end up unable to service their loan in a timely manner. As ringgit appreciates our exports will be less competitive, which may give rise to reduced output, retrenchments, even closures. Cheaper imports may not translate to better demands as luxury goods will be avoided. Even those who can afford may modify their spending patterns. In general, shopping malls will see less businesses. Eateries will jack up prices of cooked food, groceries will increase their margins to cover higher living expenses. A plate of mixed rice now at about RM5 can easily increase to RM6-7 overnight. Overall families will have to be prepared for a 20% increase in household expenses, which will be intolerable if they have not been able to save even that amount.

Who else suffer? Children of course. The aged parents. Travel agencies. IT stores. Book stores. Electrical appliances stores. Fast food chains. Car dealers. Tuition centres. Maid agencies. But some wives may be forced to work to supplement their husband’s income. Grandparents will be called out of retirement to help supervise their grandchildren.

As inflation rate rises, so will anger. Protests may be more common and some politicians will take advantage of the people’s grouses to win support. The marginalised poor will ask what is going on. In short, change may be coming sooner than expected. Their thinking is this:

If you can't fix the problems then let someone else do it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Malaysia at a Crossroad

I spent 36 minutes viewing this videoclip.

Over 2 years since the 12th general election of March 8, 2008 we are at this crossroad to make a decision, a choice and whatever we decide will take us either towards a more democratic nationhood or a return to slavery to a government that uses bribery to win votes. I am neither pro-BN or pro-PR, my political affiliation changes like the wind that blows goodwill or bad vibes into our collective lives. If I had been feeling angry and disappointed lately (that means for the past 5-10 years) it must have been because I felt let down. Let down because there was no viable choices for me to take for the future of my country. Until 2 years ago.

Today concerned adults are going round the country to register new voters, especially young voters from 21 - 25 years. The future belongs to them. How will the 13th general election turn out? Watch the videoclip above in its entirety and then make up your mind.

Drugged for Profit

I caught the below videoclip off a blog I follow. Take a look and see if you disagree with me that the poor tiger was drugged! This is cruelty and abuse to the extreme. Shame to the park owner (no prize for guessing who they are) for such mistreatment of a noble creature. I shudder to think what would have happened if the drug had worn off and the tiger decided to maul some of the visitors passing by. This sort of show should be banned. As a sign of protest avoid this place and tell your friends.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Journalising the Golf Tournament

Am I glad the golf tournament was over! The past 3 months has been very busy helping to organise the PBSNS Charity Golf Tournament which took place yesterday. Although I played a minor role I did help bring in a few golfers to play, help produce the souvenir magazine, banner and buntings, and arrange for the red carpet and royal chairs. The organising committee of 9 members worked very very hard to raise awareness, bring in sponsors and donations.

I admit I was anxious. Had it been any ordinary function I will be confident and at ease, but yesterday's was not to be since both the royal highnesses of the state of Negeri Sembilan where I stay are patrons and are participating. My job as the chairman of the Persatuan as well as the vice chairman of the golf tournament organizing committee include welcoming the royal highnesses, observing proper protocol while addressing and greeting them, both of which I have to learn and practise to make sure I don't fumble and embarass myself. I also have to give a speech and produce a movie of the Persatuan and they took up much of my creative strength. The speech must have been re-written at least 3 times and the movie, I was not satisfied until my 3rd attempt at the last moment and I was glad that I got to use the Muvee Reveal movie making software that comes bundled with the Seagate Free Agent GO external HDD I purchased just on Thursday.

And getting the souvenir magazine done involved coordinating efforts that reminded me of the days I produced the church magazines with deadlines to meet. I am glad this is was of smaller scale and a one time effort.

As the big day draws nearer I wish it will go away and soon I was almost there, with less than 24 hours and I still have last minute discussion with the cameraman on what to do. Being a non-golfer, and so is the cameraman, we are absolutely blur about where which hole is to snap pictures of the various flight (team of golfers) but this anxiety dissolved on Saturday.

When I left home at 6.10am wearing the brand new complimentary beige colored Perrygear golf tee shirt (made in Vietnam) I prayed hard for good weather. The wind was blowing a little too hard but there was no drizzle as I started driving the 30km distance towards Nilai Springs Golf & Country Club which took 35 minutes to cover. Half way it drizzled and my prayer grew harder. When I arrived the drizzled stopped and I felt relieved.

At 7.10am the police outriders entered the golf wing and my committee chairman (Puan Faridah), myself and the tournament director (Julia McGovern) hurriedly assembled at the entrance with the other committee members all lined up next to the red carpet and greeted the Yam Tuan (nickname for our state king) and the Tunku Ampuan Besar (his consort) with clasped hands over our nose and shook their hands, then ushered them to the breakfast table at the golf terrace.

As chairman of PBSNS, the recipient of the charity proceeds, I have special role and privilege. One of that was to be seated at the royal breakfast table and eat with them and some other dignitaries. After the Yam Tuan's seat was the crown prince, Tunku Ali Redhauddin, his eldest son, who is playing and I sat next to him and have some casual talk before we assembled nearby for group photography. The skies were grey but no rain. For the group photography including the golfers I sat next to the crown prince just as it was at the breakfast table, but for the other group photo of the royal highnesses with the golf committee I sat immediate next to the Yam Tuan. What a feeling and privilege!

Tuanku was next driven on a buggy to Hole 1 to tee off to launch the tournament. I went too and for the first time drove a buggy. It was powered by an electric battery and easy to drive. Tuanku earlier decided not to play on medical advice but graciously consented to tee off. On the green of Hole 1 I managed to have a personal picture taken of myself with Tuanku. I cannot wait to see how I look! Was I nervous? Did I smile? Was I too serious looking? I hope I look calm and relaxed (not like the skies which has began to brew more dark clouds). Once Tuanku has tee'd off the siren sounded at 8.05am to begin the tournament (other golfers were already assembled at their respective holes).

I went to Hole 10 nearby with the other camera person to take pictures of the Tunku Ampuan's flight and then returned to the breakfast terrace. Feeling restless I decided to set up my laptop and LCD projector at the Putra 1 banquet hall where 14 tables had been set up for lunch at 1pm.

9.30am. Rain fell and soon there was thunderclaps. The siren sounded, which is to get all the golfers back to the building, as a precaution. My heart sank a little and I asked God if He had overlooked my prayer. But half hour later the rain ceased and play resumed. This interruption costed us more than an hour delay as the last golfers only came in about 2pm. Our lunch was delayed to 2.30pm. I was not only hungry but more anxious to get the rest of the event over and go home to rest. Many of the committee felt the same.

At 12 noon I had changed into my batik shirt and washed up in the men's changing room. I test run the movie and rehearsed my speech and practised my protocol before the royals and how to stand up, how to receive the mock cheque and asked if it is in order to shake Yam Tuan's hand. In a sense we (Julia and I and the master of ceremony Linda) were all grateful to Puan Faridah for guiding us on what to do and not do. As ordinary folks who almost never have to talk to royals we really need jabs of confidence.

2.30pm. Faridah, myself and Julia escorted the royal highnesses into the banquet hall to the royal table and I got the privilege to sit next to Yam Tuan because I was going to be handed the mock cheque by him. The table seats only 8 people. Two seats facing the royal highnesses were left deliberately vacant as protocol requires that no commoner be seated facing them.

The next 90 minutes proceeded quite smoothly. Except for one or two minor mistakes we did exceptionally well considered our immaturity toward these things and amateurishness. When it comes to my turn to speak, I stood up, sembah (meaning clasp my hands) facing the royal highnesses (we call them Tuankus just as we address regular people as Mr or Mrs) and walked confidentally towards the rostrum on the far side of the stage. On the rostrum was my prepared speech which I had left there earlier. The reading light was left on by the earlier speaker Julia. I spoke clearly and confidently after I gave the formal salutation the Tuankus and the crown prince. I kept my speech short, about 5-6 minutes. I know that diners hate long speeches and are seldom able to focus on what the speaker says. At the end I sembah again before I sat down. And Nisha a committee member helped start the 5 minutes movie. I felt good that it had received compliments earlier during rehearsals.

It is almost done. I felt I did OK on my speech. I did not tremble nor make mistakes. Minutes later I helped give out some prizes and soon I was presented the mock cheque by Yam Tuan at our table and I shook his hand. I beamed with pride and gratitude. This was the moment that made the golf preparations worth the while. This may make it to the newspapers but surely it will be posted to the PBSNS blog soon.

When the lunch ended at 4pm with the giving of royal gifts and flowers we performed our last duty of escorting the royal highnesses from the banquet hall to their waiting limousine to drive them back to their Palace. Then it was relief and satisfaction all round in every committee member's face.

The skies had already cleared. After packing some unclaimed prizes and unused items into my car I drove home, tired but happy at the good ending.

Our rewards? The mock cheque said "RM60,000" and that was close to what we raised at the tournament. The actual net figure will be a little higher. However, not included above are proceeds from 2 auctions at the luncheon, a painting by an Indonesian slow learner which the crown prince bidded for RM600, and a Breitling watch a golfer bidded for RM8,500.

On top of these we will also be getting an unknown sum from the private sale of a Komeda far infra red sauna retailing for about RM18,000. An estimate proceeds may be RM10,000-12,000.

The absolute and amazing surprise we received, totally unexpected but extremely welcomed, is the amount of RM10,000 from the Yayasan Munawir, a foundation in memory of the Yam Tuan's parents. They gave because they believe in our work of rehabilitating slow learners. They understand their plights because they too have a handicapped son at home.

I did not have a really good rest last night as my body takes more than a day to unwind. But my mind is rested from the labour of good works. In the coming weeks we will produce our accounts and report them to our participants, donors, sponsors and especially the Tuankus who like to know how we are doing.

I shall post a few nice pictures here later.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Understanding Maid Issues from Employers Viewpoint

I happened to stumble into THIS report by the NST and I cannot say I agree totally. Take this passage,

While maids in this country may not literally be under lock and key, they are virtually in chains as they are not free to come and go -- their passports are in the hands of their employers or somebody else. By any definition, this is slavery, and so are the gruelling hours, with few breaks and no days of rest, which the maids work. This is a gross violation of their rights as workers and a grave affront to their dignity as human beings.

I think the writer is sensationalising the issue. While our laws require passport holders to keep their documents for practical reasons the employers hold them in trust. What practical reasons?

1. The maid finds it easier to run away for the slightest excuse or temptation.
2. The passports can be misplaced.
3. The employer can hold on to his maid to the tenure he employs her.

There is nothing wrong with the practice which is industry standard. Allowing maids to keep their passports will surely create new problems for the law enforcement agencies besides creating headaches to the employers. It is an old issue and need not be harped upon.

Gruelling hours? Which employer wants to risk a sick or injured maid? Do not lump the 95% good employers with the odd ones. Every nation outside of Malaysia has such slave drivers. I think Malaysian maid employers are by and large caring and reasonable. Making Malaysian employers look bad is not only unfair but out of proportion. Instead look from the perspective of why some maids cannot adjust to their workplaces as well as their fellow citizens.

It boils down to individual aptitudes, expectations and motives. OK, cultural, education and early exposure play important roles in determining if some maids are suitable to work. Not every maid who wants to work can work, and not every maid who are trained can perform. Skills is one thing, but what is more important is right motivation. I believe maids need to be grilled into their expectations and maturity of leaving homes to work overseas, which is vastly different from working in big cities of their home country. If they cannot stand the separation then better not train them for oversea deployment. It is grossly unfair to potential employers who can only depend on biodata to decide if their choice is right or not since most do not have the privilege of conducting face-to-face interviews.

Unfortunately pre-qualifying maids for the Malaysian market is unattractive since our pays are generally lower than other countries that pay higher, so the best are screened away, leaving the bulk of poorer materials to come us. It is of no advantage to recruiting agencies overseas to stop under-qualified maids from coming over. Why would they do that, unless we pay them higher fees? They are in the business of recruiting candidates, train them and send them over and earn fees from each successful match. In the process, employers end up at the wrong end of the stick. Many employers are lucky to have hardworking, friendly and caring maids. Many are also unlucky to have bad ones. In the final analysis I can conclude that not matter how smart you think you are in analysing a potential maid for yourself, luck does play an important part in determining whether you will have an easier or harder working relations with her.

Today maid employers face a new risk from recruiters who offer maids alternative employment as cleaners and a different lifestyle. Many are willing to jump ship. I believe younger and possibly single maids are better attracted to leave, even if they leave without their passports. Employers face the dilemma of taking an older and married maid who may already have her set ways of doing work and a set attitude, or a younger or unmarried maid who may be more trainable but also more vulnerable to leave. I am not saying older married maids won't run but I think if they are used to working in a fixed home environment they will be less likely to be tempted away.

The question often asked is:

Is it still worth to consider employing fulltime foreign maids who may leave suddenly for other job options?

Daycare centres are becoming a serious option to consider but they lack the convenience of an all-in-one service centre. A full time maid can be made to do household chores, cook, look after children and some other jobs, but daycare is solely childcare. Eventually families that need outside assistance will have to fork out extra cash to employ gardeners and housecleaners, even cooks.

We have to wake up to the new situation that paying for cheap domestic labour is not a viable choice anymore if you want a satisfied life. But paying for expensive maids does not guarantee one a good maid either.

The majority of Malaysian maid employers just want a cordial working relationship with their maids. Who in their right mind would want to bear with daily stresses of scolding their maids? Who would overwork their maids till they are sick and then send them to the doctors? Surely if maids are scolded there has to be reasons. Gone are the days we expect maids to be perfect. Today we have lowered our expectation. We can expect 70-80% performance if the maid do not steal, lie, cheat or do harm to the employers. At the end of the 2 years contract or extension, I am sure most employers will happily re-learn to live a life without maids. We engage maids out of necessity, not out of prestige or luxury.

The problem of getting good child and house helps will surely make many young couples think twice of having a larger family. Maybe they will stop with just one or two children. Some may not even get married. If this trend is followed also in smaller towns and villages and kampongs, it will surely lead to a decline in our population in the coming decades.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Challenge of Forging Unity in Malaysia

I am not writing on this topic. Rather I picked the subject of the talk given by a very young, enterprising and very intelligent royal member, not even 28 years old, who represents a generation of young Malaysians not taken in by divisive politics but rather sees hope for a better Malaysia in individualising our identities and strength. On May 13, while many Malaysians recall the damages done to national unity when racials riots broke out in Kuala Lumpur on that day in 1969, or huddle in fear of another racial breakout, YAM Tunku Zain Al-Abidin Muhriz, the founder of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) delivered a speech debunking the danger of racial tension that May 13 has been associated with. Bluntly, he suggested it was a convenient justification to introduce all sorts of government actions, beginning with the NEP, and now the NEM. Tunku Zain aptly pointed out that May 13 was a POLITICAL event recast as a RACIAL event.

I like that part of his speech when he said, 'Surely, we can move on?'. Indeed we must move on. May 13 was but a minor event and we should not relive the day as if it deserves remembrance to haunt us forever. Please go HERE to read the full speech. You will be amazed at this young man, who by the way, is the second son of the Yang Di Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan, my home state.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stop Daydreaming!

I can't help but feel disgusted every time BN loses an election DAP would come up with this reminder to its supporters that they are getting nearer to Putrajaya, the seat of the federal government. Read HERE. Although I have no objection to people getting worked up whenever they take a lead but quietens down when they lose it (the recent Thomas Cup matches where Malaysia threw away her chances and the crowd behaved just like Kit Siang) I would have wanted Pakatan parties to work quietly to Putrajaya instead of boasting their chances. Sure we all want a change of government but of what use if the new government fails to deliver due to internal bickering and lack of knowlege and professionalism to manage a nation as complex as ours? Also to remember that while the journey to Putrajaya may be easy, staying there may be nightmarish with every likelihood of BN sabotaging them. The business of taking over a federal government is not to be taken lightly and supporters of Pakatan will certainly want them to be prepared instead of being impatient to wear the crown.

If you have to wait till 14th GE instead of the 13th, so be it but just check BN at every turn.

Placing God On Top of Your Problem Pile

Most of the time we leave God out when we deal with our problems. OK, we deal God in when we face MAJOR problems, like when debt collectors come knocking, we face imminent death, or when we see no hope of human solution, then we turn to God, that is, if we have a place for God in our lives to allow Him to act. How we prioritise God depends on how much, or how little, we depend on Him for little things in our lives. For instance, giving thanks for our food may appear publicly awkward and unimportant but the practice stresses the need to connect with God, if we believe that He provides for our daily needs. Otherwise, if we do not believe even in such simple acts how then can we call upon Him when we need Him to help in larger things?

Many of us are guilty of 'using' God whatever faith we profess. God is only our God when He come to our aid. Apart from that we look for human solutions to our problems. Then again, it may sound incredulous to suggest that for every problem, even small ones, we should ask for God's guidance and assistance. Really the point here is not that we expect God to solve every problem we raised. The point is developing a dependence relationship so that we grow into God and make it a daily routine as invisible as breathing air.

I admit it is hard to ask God for His blessings over many things of our lives, but again I believe it is not what we miss out but what we ask of Him. If we make a daily list of our wants we may be shocked to discover we hardly seek God at all! Even more shocking may be that when we cry out for help, God is at the bottom of our problem pile.

I believe God rejoice in a people who look to Him for help at all times, big or small. I ask of Him to help in my family, my life, my business, my church, my city, my nation. And I believe that He hears and He answers. I feel blessed that if my life has been rock steady it has to be that God sits on top of my problem pile. And even if some of the problems persist I will still feel assured that God takes care of the rest. In 4 days I will be at the charity golf tournament to raise money for a new training centre that I look after. No doubt I am anxious but I trust that God will take care of things, big and small.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Do We Have a Deal?

Post Sibu by-election yesterday after DAP beat BN candidate by a narrow 398 vote margin I watched the below videoclip and felt really sick and ashamed to have a PM who blatantly tried to bribe for votes. In a sense I am glad he now rethinks of the RM5 million he tried to trade off. Read HERE. Why, for God sake, are you a dishonorable person Mr PM. So the people of Rejang Park will continue to suffer floods just because BN did not secure the election? How childish can one get? So you won't visit Sibu anymore? Neither will you dream of Sibu? I guess the audience were not convinced he was a credible leader that night trying to strike a deal that way.

You DO NOT and MUST NOT negotiate political alliance with money, ESPECIALLY in a community where people fear God. Read THIS thought provoking article. You negotiate for what people believe in and as far as this by-election goes I doubt there is anything left for the Sibu people to believe in BN. Although the margin was razor thin, the message was loud and clear. Money no longer talk in some community and the PM must learn to respect the people who are willing to suffer inconvenience rather than forgo their moral principles.

As some bloggers have insinuated, the PM is opened to be investigated for money politics. Watch this videoclip and judge for yourself if he is.

Update May 18: Read THIS report which rails at the PM for being immoral in his election conduct.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Christian Trump Card

The Christian voters of Sibu hold a vital trump card in the upcoming by-election this Sunday. With a majority Chinese Christian population they will determine the outcome of who will be the winner. PM Najib have given out RM18 million to schools in the hope of dashing the opposition chance. Some voters will be grateful of course but since there is no condition that the money must be returned if the Barisan coalition party loses, then conscience and moral principle must be the deciding factors in how the vote should go.

Has the Barisan government been just and fair over the past 2 years to the people of Sibu to deserve re-election? Are the Sibuans weak to allow political bribery to sway how they cast their votes? After all, the money do not belong to Najib or Barisan. It belongs to the people and Barisan is just a steward.

The banning of Bibles containing the 'Allah' word has infuriated many indigenous Christians of East Malaysia who were using the term for ages. The issue has not been resolved and according to THIS report the Christians there are now demanding the return of the books confiscated. If the government keeps quiet it will swing many Christian votes towards the DAP candidate; if the government relents, and anger the hardlined Muslims, it may save some Christians votes but after the by election is over will they reverse their decision? The Barisan government has been fond of making policy changes and to renege on promises made will not be surprising.

Malaysian voters must look at the larger picture and longer timespan. We should put people who are morally principled into office, not those why fly in with cash and hope to fly off with votes in exchange. This is trading off our future for a few million ringgits.

The Sibu parliamentary seat is crucial to Barisan to try to regain their two-third majority so that they can begin to change laws to further entrench their control of the nation's future. Sibuans must use their trump card responsibly for it will ramify nationwide.

A Monstrous Guest

Last night we were gathered in the living room watching teevee after dinner when we heard a loud rumbling sound outside, something unusual in our peaceful neighborhood. The dogs were barking so we went out to investigate. Lo and behold, a huge 40' long container was outside our gates slowly making its way down the road to another house, which the driver said, is moving all the household items overseas. I am just wondering how the driver managed to get into our tight roads and how is he going to get out, without falling into the drains or damaging the road side shrubs. This morning when I drove my granddaughter out to the nearby recreation park I noted that there were no signs of any destructions. Obviously the driver must be used to driving in squeezed space. Here is a pix of the monster.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Unremembering Today

If we can we should erase May 13 from our calendar so we don't even have this date but we can't. History cannot be erased but it can be learned. History must not at all cost be used to repeat itself. When terrorists bombed the WTC twin towers on Septmber 11, 2001, sane people around the world reacted in anger and disbelief. Americans mourned those who perished irrespective of their colors. The catch phrase that rally Americans is 'We Will Remember'

We shall never forget
We shall keep this day,
We shall keep the events and the tears
In our minds, our memory and our hearts
and take them with us as we carry on.

Malaysians who were old enough to remember (age 50 and above) will appreciate the wounds of hatred sowed but sadly they have not closed today. There are still Malaysians who want to dig up the sore and bleed the nation. They are the dividers, not builders. They are the killers, not the healers.

Let us not be revengeful against one another but learn the lesson of 41 years ago today.

We shall remember May 13
We shall keep this day to understand what to avoid
We shall mourn those who died that we may be better united
In our minds, in our hearts and in our spirit
and take them with us as we carry on our lives.

I am glad that the nation is peaceful today (as at 3pm, no incidents that worry and the stock market is up). I am glad that Malaysians by and large are fed up with the fearmongers. I am glad that we choose to build and heal. At the very least do nothing rather than go about stirring old anger to the surface.

Malaysians who were born after this fateful day would probably scratch their heads and ask, 'What's the problem?'. To them May 13, 1969 means absolutely nothing I'm sure. The culprits who are doing this are the irresponsible older people who don't know how to retire responsibly.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Man and Nature

We are all aware how much attention have been given to controlling our energy wastage (and usage) to mitigate the creeping warming of our habitat. I remember barely 30 years ago sleeping without air-conditioning is comfortable but nowadays I think almost every home will have at least an airconditioner installed and in every room and hall, fans to keep the air circulating. In cars, also some 30 years ago, airconditioning was a luxury afforded by bigger capacity cars but now even sub-compact cars have it. No longer a luxury because it is inconceivable to drive in hot and humid weather which I believe affect people living in the temperate weather belt as well.

Why? Are we roasting ourselves slowly? I believe yes we are and no amount of petitions, talks, agreements, conversion to energy saving devices, even modifying our habits to save energy will help reverse the global warming trend. I am pessimistic for these reasons.

1. As population grows more heat will be generated. Even sleeping we produce heat that pass to the air space we occupy. Even in death our decaying bodies generate heat before they diffuse into the grounds. The more people, the more heat. Worse, each of us extend our heat generating capacity by the equipment we use and the lifestyle we follow. For an average person having a car, staying in air-conditioned house and working in a similar environment, frequenting air-conditioned restaurants, cinemas, malls, etc, he directly and indirectly help generate heat. I can only think of the indigenuous folks living in jungles and deserts who have a very small carbon footprints. All of us living in developing or developed cities and towns are guilty of contributing to global warming. And we are unlikely to sacrifice more than token efforts to help contain the problem. So be prepared for hotter days ahead. Which will force us to instal more air-conditioners and demand more cooled places (outdoor parks too?) to jog and meet. Which will generate even more heat, and make life even less bearable.

2. Heat is a by product of chemical and electrical processes that generate a service or good we use. Man has not been able to invent a process to eliminate this heat which if successful will surely save much money besides keeping our planet cooler. For instance, I would love to have light bulbs that are cool, laptops that run without cooling fans, cars that need no radiators or air-conditioning that produce no residual heat.

3. We strip away too much vegetation that metabolises carbon dioxide and lower atmospheric temperatures. We upset the design of our environment by leveling hills, daming rivers and erecting man made structure that upset the 'chi' of the natural energy flow. Not that I am a believer of feng tsui but I believe that man should live in harmony with our environment rather than modify it. Climatic changes are directly affected by what we do to the landscape. Perhaps recent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are signs of disharmony reacting in revenge?

4. We are progressing too fast as well as engaging in non-essential production of goods and services. Do we need so many choices? Capitalism and competition have given us more than we need and in the process help kill the human race faster. Years ago I wish we do not develop as fast as the faster growing economies. But in the name of survival we jumped on the bandwagon and boast of higher GDP and more choices and higher income for our people. In life I believe whatever we do will trigger reactions from somewhere. Already we are seeing our environment degradated. Floods and landslides are common. We are suffering the consequence of our lack of long term wisdom and planning.

As I write this the weather outside is cooling. I am thankful but anytime the weather pattern will change. I think back to the 1960s when my late father would depend on the cool afternoon breeze for his nap. No fan, no air-conditioning. Just what nature provides. Are we able to depend on God made ventilation rather than man invented ones?

I worry not for myself but for my grandchildren who have to deal with new crises I am not facing today. But I cannot help them beyond living simple life with controlled wastage. The entire human race must awaken to the disaster that is fast approaching.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Argument Against Sedentary Life

This is from a speech by Mr. Lee Kuan Yew that was circulating about the Internet. It must have been widely read and approved and I believe everybody should take notice of it. He is a living proof that if you slow down too much, you may slow down permanently.

In other words, you must have an interest in life. If you believe that at 55, you're retiring, you're going to read books, play golf and drink wine, then I think you're done for. So statistically they will show you that all the people who retire and lead sedentary lives, the pensioners die off very quickly.

I actually dislike what he said, and I believe thousands of retirees agree with me. We are entitled to enjoy our old age, further more we should go slow as our bodies and minds are telling us to. Trying to live a fast and dangerous life at our age is asking for trouble and I am sure this is not what he meant. Mr Lee's advice is to keep ourselves active both mentally and physically otherwise we will accelerate towards our graves. Not a nice thought but when we complain we are too busy working and have no time to enjoy life we should perhaps be grateful we have something to be busy about.

Having a positive outlook is an important age extender. And learning to be humorous and happy often boost the bottomline. Plus 'tricking' our minds to forgive and let go of past hurts. However many older people tend to be too reflective and sad over missed opportunities and diminishing abilities. Our worlds still remain the same but we discover there are more don'ts to be careful about but that is not what Mr Lee meant I'm sure. I believe he meant, in spite of our reduced capabilities, to be still engaging at activities that keep us interesting and useful. Just this morning I was thinking how nice if I can spend my time just listening to my music collections and do nothing else. I can almost hear Mr Lee admonishing me to get up and out into the real world.

In a sense I am glad I am not retired although I am past retiring age. But I also wish I am but this choice is for me to make in the coming few years.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

You Are the Best Mother, God Bless You!

Today is Mother's Day and I want to say the above to my dear wife on behalf of my children, as well as the Best Po Po on behalf of our grandchildren. My wife have said this umpteen times time, for the sake of her grandchildren, she will not retire. I hope they will know how to appreciate this grand lady in due time! Perhaps the greatest gift is to give her time for herself.

Somebody Turned 80 Last Night

A senior church member turned 80 last night and my wife and I were among the 80 plus guests invited to his party at a local restaurant. Sandwiched between two other wedding parties our smaller group felt dwarfed but the warmth of the occasion was nonetheless present. We were seated at table 7 and soon after we started warming our seats we were joined by 8 other church members. I made a quick comparison and discovered I was still the youngest at the table. So at the opening dish, which is the traditional noodle symbolising longevity, I did the honour of serving everyone. I was very much at home doing it. I have never felt being served to be better than serving, unless I have to be because of protocol or that it is my big day.

The hosts provided red wine. I've always enjoyed red wine so I asked for it and throughout the dinner I must drank too much and have said a little beyond my usual gabbiness but my fellow guests said I did not acted or spoke improperly. It made me feel alright when I got home.

Tomorrow is going to be Mother's Day and I reminded myself to greet my wife the first thing in the morning. She has been a wonderful partner and celebrating just once a year is certainly not enough for a lady like her.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

To Cop or Not to Cop?

On April 26, a young boy (14 or 15 years, age under dispute) was shot dead in Shah Alam around 2am by police on patrol in that area. Dispute arose as to whether the police officers on duty then had been high handed, trigger happy or plain careless in unloading his bullets into the boy. Well, the boy is dead and questions were asked what was he and his friend (the only witness to the incident) doing this late at night, and driving without a licence? That is of course subject to a charge had the boy being caught alive. The police claimed the deceased tried to ram his car, intentionally or in panic (also being disputed) into a group of policemen and one of them had shot at him in defence. The witness claimed otherwise, citing the police for firing at the car as it was being chased towards the deceased home. Public sympathy leaned towards the dead boy and his family. Whatever is being said about poor parental control ultimately public perception is that the police, who had the upper hand in controlling the outcome of the event, had chosen the convenient way out which is that of shooting first and then claiming self-defence. True or not the case has moved into the public domain and the Malaysian police has come out in aggressive defence, especially the Inspector General of Police (due to retire in September 2010, what a bad send-off) who childishly replied in anger that if the public so desire he would pull out every police officers from crime prevention duty! That is certainly not what we expected, sir. We were just angry at the slow pace (or non-) police investigation into their own people.

For too long the public have been accepting the fact that whatever wrong a police personnel commit, his crime will be covered up by his peers. Unless it cannot be helped, someone will be made scapegoat to close the case. This is not what we want. What we want is fairness and justice. Punish the errant police officers even before you start hearing public outcry! Give back to us the respect we want to give you!

The above incident will surely make every police officer on crime prevention duty trigger nervous. To shoot or not to shoot? That is the Shakespeare question. If shoot, there is a risk of causing an accidental death. Not to shoot when it is justified will jeopardise the officers.

In Seremban another police shooting was reported just 12 hours ago and the police chief was quick to apologise. He had learned fast not to follow his boss the IGP. But the real problem is still the police had fired at the illegal bikers who taunted them. That was absolutely unnecessary but who can say the police are angels and full of patience? In the course of their work they must have been angered by law breakers that they would just break their patience and release their frustrations by reckless shooting. They may be disqualified as being unsuited for the jobs but it will means disqualifying more than half the police force! The answer has to be found elsewhere.

I believe, as many other senior people do, that our education system has failed us. And so has the government been irresponsible in inculcating unhealthy lifestyles to both the adults and youths. The problem is also in recognising the problems BUT refusing to act promptly until the issue becomes literally unmanageable. Illegal migrants is a good example.

The police is under severe pressure to deliver results that they can reduce crime and give us a safe environment to work and live in. Unless they work together with the other government agencies to fight crime aggressively and addressing root causes, increasing more police on the streets will not be able to contain the ever increasing cases of violators. As of now it seems the police are fighting a losing battle, and this makes me worried.

We should not be overly prejudiced at the police as an institution. There are really good cops, but we should go after the bad ones and help the authorities clean up the forces and image so we can have more peaceful sleep.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

This Kid is a Genius!

I always believe that children are talented if you allow them to develop their latent skills, which is why I never discourage my children (that was almost 30 years ago, and I hope they will not dispute me) and my grandchildren from wanting to be what they want to be, provided I don't see them to be potentially harmful. So far 2 of my grandchildren are showing musical talents, being gifted in singing and playing keyboards, just like their mothers. Drums? What I know is the children of my younger daughter like to play the baby drumset in their house bought more or less to appease their desire to whack some noise and hopefully some rhythmic tune out of it.

Today I read a blog that showed this Youtube kid called Howard. Must be about 4 years old giving older kids a run on their money. He's really GOOD, although he dropped his drum sticks but picked them up with a smirk on his face and continue drumming on. Watch it and enjoy!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Mailbox Attacked!

My gmail account was hacked into yesterday. It was the 2nd time in under a month. This time I received a warning from Google to change my password to one of higher strength which I did. The first hack did not produce such a warning so I did not feel the need to do anything then. Some 21 contacts from my phonebook were invited to visit a link that, to my great relief, point to an online pharmacy and not anything pornographic, and I did the natural thing, reply all of them that my mail account was hacked.

This attack seems to move in waves. On the first attack it did not attempt to recontact my mailbox again so I do not expect it to do likewise now. With a new password the risk is reduced. I suppose I will have to change passwords periodically to avoid becoming a victim of being used. The next attack, if it successfully penetrate my defense, may cause irrevocable damage like deleting or corrupting all my mails online.

Isolating the Weeds, Not the Neighbors

We live in a detached house which came with chain link fencing on 3 sides. The road we lived on slopes down so my left and right neighbors are higher and lower. When we bought the house we decided to replace the chainlink fencing ovelooking our lower neighbor with a concrete wall both to provide privacy as well as prevent our grass from overgrowing into the neighbor's space. We expect the higher neighbor to do likewise as each household should only be responsible to pay for one such wall but we did not get the higher chainlink fencing upgraded. When the original owner of the higher house moved out the compound was irregularly maintained and soon weeds grew and began infesting our garden below. I remember some 6 years ago my wife and I would lovingly pull up the crab grass but our efforts were soon overwhelmed and then we gave up. Our garden became more and more unruly and the original cow grass lost its battle against the weeds. The only time the garden appear presentable is the 2 weeks period after the gardener comes to mow the lawn and prune the shrubs, after which the weeds would sprout all over.

Some 4 years ago I decided to erect a concrete wall at the back of the property not just for added privacy but for security as well. So 2 sides are now concrete walled. When my current neighbor bought over the higher house and moved in I was disappointed that I did not get a concrete wall but he does try to keep his garden cut regularly which is better than when the house was unkept for some 7 years under occupied.

Over the past 3 days I decided to clean up the overflowing weeds into my orchid stands located below the chainlink fencing with the higher neighbor as well as put up additional wire nettings to contain the weeds on his side. For now the orchid stands look decent but for how long the weeds are kept away I cannot tell.

Neighborliness works 2 ways. We do what we can to keep our plants from invading our neighbors but the reciprocal actions may not come about. Yesterday I remarked to my wife my wish of letting our grandchildren romp the garden and camp on it but as it is, unless I demolish the present lawn and replant with new unadulterated grass, the lawn is unsuitable for kids to play on. Only when I get my wish answered, that is I get a wall from my higher neighbor, will I consider replacing the entire lawn.

For now the only happy user is Lipton our mongrel who roll over it and uses patches of it to pee and defecate.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

3 Ladies

Over the Chinese New Year in mid February I took this picture of my mother, my wife and my grand-daughter in the house of my mother. Their age span from 84 to 2 years yet they represent a spectrum of the ladies of my life. While my mother and wife have already experienced the joy, pressure and frustrations of motherhood, little Ling will have many more years to discover them. But Mother's Day will dawn on us in just over a week's time. I believe recognition of their roles in our lives give them, and all mothers and grandmothers round the world their deserved recognition from their children and grandchildren, husbands need to also acknowledge the very important roles their ladies play in their lives. We should rename Mother's Day as Mother's/Wife's Day to jointly appreciate our women for without them we men and children would not be as successful as we are. Thank you, ladies.

A Lovely Moon (Almost Full)

Last night after Victoria and William left with their parents I looked up the night skies and saw this lovely sight so I took out my camera and set it to shutter speed priority and at 8 seconds exposure with my camera sitting still on top of my gate pillar took this errie picture. Although it was past the 15th day of the lunar month (it was actually the 17th day) the moon was still blazingly bright and round. The dog in the foreground was Lipton, a mongrel which had lived with us since 1999 when we took her back from a stray pack. I wonder if she remembers her past ... .

Some Peace and Quiet

My wife and I awoke to a house with just 2 of us. The grandchildren have gone off to visit their other paternal grandparents over the Labour Day weekend. Yesterday all 4 grandchildren were with us and the house was noisier than usual. A real blessing to have so much life around although busy! Many older people would envy us but certainly we all need to put in efforts to engage with the younger generation before they find their turfs and leave us behind.

Yesterday evening we took the 3 older ones to City Park to run about, ride the swings and slides, feed the fishes and generally feel the rush of winds and freedom of the outdoor. My, how the kids run! Or I am feeling old. I tried to capture as many pictures and videoclips as I could and it can be tiring, but worth the while. Here some pix I took.


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