Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Education for the Future

Something is terribly wrong with human society at the rate we are decivilizing. Look at the increasing number of disenchantments as reflected by street demonstrations, overthrow of governments, collapses of financial institutions, rising poverty and crime rates as well as deterioration of human values in general although we have great religions to reach our souls. The core culprit? I'd like to think we must revamp our entire education system and policy, not just for my country but worldwide. Below are my thoughts.

Language
No less than 2 languages must be made mandatory. In a multiracial nation like mine where English is not any of our mother tongue it is a constant struggle to decide which two languages to decide. Personally it is a done thing that for global communication English must be one of them. The second the national language, or majority race language. A third optional language may be offered which a minority race will have to decide. Nations with less complexing racial mix like China, Japan, Germany and India should find it easier deciding on the language syllabus.

Mathematics
No matter how we progress or regress, mathematics is the second most important subject in schools because it is the language of living in a real world.

Information Technology
This must be made a mandatory subject from primary school where children are exposed to different IT impacts. The sooner they understand this modern day subject the better and more well rounded they become.

Religion
No child must be deprived of studying and choosing a religion. We may live in a physical world but our souls need to know and be nourished by a theological knowledge it can accept.

Civics
This subject must be well taught and applied for upon its execution the success of inter-relationship between man and man, man and nature and race and race rest. A root cause why civil society is deteriorating is that we care less for others and our environment. Civics must be taught from nursery to university and to include global understanding of different cultures and traditions.

Economics
From money management to investments every child should be aware of the many options to plan his life. The study of economics also broaden the scope of understanding global financial issues. Within this subject the basics of accounting, business and management should be taught.

Sciences
I believe we should de-emphasize pure sciences and promote applied sciences from where emerge all the great professions of medicine, engineering, architecture and teaching.

Art and Music
These pillars are erected upon the foundation of every race and must be appreciated throughout the education cycle of a person.

Human History
History are studied to understand why they happened, their impact on humanity as a whole and lessons to be learned. History must be mandatory but not over emphasized.

Geography
This is one subject I think should be made an elective subject. It is a knowledge I hardly apply and I don't think will be missed if we know less.

Politics
You may think our children should not involve in politics but I say it is precisely we as adult surrender the right of responsible governing that so many nations are falling apart. Our children need to understand what political systems are available and suitable because it help them better judge the government they choose.

Sex Education
This is no longer culturally restrictive as we are more opened to the human sexuality. Every person is curious but ignorance always guide him to misunderstanding of how his sex affects his life and relationship. Early intervention in sex education is important from about 4-8 and 12-15 for it is about these age bands children explore their bodies and are mystified by their new found sexuality.

I believe all the subjects must be taught basically from very young and as the child grows taught in greater details and with deeper analysis and application in real life. Education is for the living, for the social being, for the impovement of our society and stewardship of our precious environment. A shift in thinking and preparing education and educating for life is critical in upholding our civilization.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Alternative Maid Solution

Today's headline HERE screamed at all families who depend on maids to solve their child and parent care problem. Many families who need maids have come to this conclusion: maids are a necessary pain and must be sent home as soon as they are no longer needed. The dilemma is there are so many problematic maids that questions are raised if it is worth spending so much money and still face the same problems and more. A report from Singapore that a maid mixed her menstrual blood in a soup she cooked for her employer because she was angry for being disallowed to use the telephone raises the question of why we allow total strangers to put our health and safety at risk. How can anyone tolerate having such mentally sick people in his own home and worrying over the harm she can cause? No wonder so many homes are fitted with CCTVs not so much as to record burglaries but to catch their maids doing mischief or abusing the babies or bedridden patient. Some even put charm amulets or burn incense to cast spells on the family members. Or use wash water from their panties to make beverage drinks for their male bosses and cook food. This is sooo sickening! It is definitely advisable to stop depending on maids and consider alternative solutions.

If we look abroad at how many developed countries manage similar problems we find an established child care and senior care institutions in place, run both by the governments and private enterprises to cater to such needs. Children are sent to the daycare and disabled parents to senior or nursing homes. They don't employ maids. Asian cultures still want families to stay intact and at home rather than be cared away. Asians must move away from the mindset that putting their old parents who cannot care for themselves in a senior home is unloving or unfilial. It is worst to leave them at home at risk to themselves. But such parents themselves must cooperate and understand such options are for their overall good. My 86 year old mother insisted on living alone with a live-in caregiver. Maid is out of question as she can steal and bolt when opportunity arises. She will surely bully the old lady. My mother was fortunate she found an 80 year old companion who just provide paid companionship but not the housecleaning. However this may just be a temporary solution. She is adamant that she wont live in a senior home and this makes it difficult for us children who live far away. Senior home is the best answer if well managed and hygienic as it provide everything from security, meals, medicare, social life and laundry service! Maids who work there are under 24 hours supervision and unlikely to hurt the residents.

Likewise babies and toddlers in a well managed nursery grow up in a healthy social environment. In Malaysia we do not have enough such care centers in place that are professionally run and trusted for families to turn to. Surely they have been proven to work elsewhere so can also work here. It is up to both the government and private sectors to grow this essential service industry to full bloom so that we can stop bringing in dubious foreign maids who generate more problems than solve them. Plus Malaysian houses are designed without rooms for maids who are usually boarded inside utility or store rooms.

It is time property developers be required to set aside land and space for mandatory creches and nursing homes. We need them as much as places for worship and for burials.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The First Time, The Last Time

The first time we fall in love we discover a brand new emotion untaught anywhere. The first time our heart broke we started growing up. The first time we hold a baby, our very own, we remember and we felt the pride and joy of parenthood. The first time we brought the child to kindergarten, leaving her there and watching her cry in fear, our heart ached but we must be firm for the sake of her character building. The first time we took our son to the dentist and watched him fidget anxiously as he awaits the extraction of his first milk tooth, our hearts went out to him, wishing we could change place ... The first time our little girl experience the queasy feeling of puppy love and came seeking advice, we grew a little older and fonder. The first time we hold another baby in the family after, oh such a long time, we realize a new generation is taking shape and we feel somewhat worn and old.

The first time we discover we cannot see a distant object as clearly as we used to, we understand we are on the downward slope of part 2 of our life. The first time we start feeling joint pain and asked around our contemporaries, and they welcomed you into the club, you know age and deterioration has caught up, and you begin to see life from a new angle. The first time you wake up without a job to go to, you worry what you are going to do with all the time in the world ... The first time you are addressed uncle or auntie, you took offense but slowly got used to the new status. The first time you are ushered to the priority lane in banks and supermarkets you take it with some remorse that you are treated with guarded respect and caution that you are breakable.

Then the first times will give way to the beginning of many last times of your life and if you think deeply you really need strength to live positively. Can you remember the last time you drove your car and is now driven instead? What about the last time you pay your own bills? Go to the bank? Visit your dentist or doctor on your own? Bathe yourself? How about sleeping or sharing the common bed with your spouse? Saying 'I Love You'? Hold hands? Have sex? Remembering the name of your spouse before Alzheimer's disease ruin your life? The last time you feed yourself? The last time you smile? Or know what happiness is?

In between all the first and last times are the years of good times interspersed with bad times, difficult times, and discovering times. They make us what we are and prepare us to face the end time. One day we will close our eyes for the last time and if we live our lives right, awake on the other side of life's river to discover an eternity with no time to regret or miss.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Taking Things in Stride for 2 Months



This is a picture of my back neighbour who have extended his house with the roof close to the common boundary line. He has promised to install a rain gutter to collect the runoffs from the roofs so the rain will not run into my house compound. The rainy season is starting and I hope my backyard won't be receiving gush of water from my back neighbour.



This is my other neighbour on the side and higher up. His contractor has just mobilized and work has begun two days ago. The owner promised his contractor will be civil and considerate in minimizing pollution - noise and dust - as well as finish the work within 2 months. During this period my wife will be shifting the laundry racks to make sure the clothings put out to sun are not trapping cement, wood and asbestos dusts. At the same time the windows facing the back and side are kept closed and our grandchildren kept indoor except when the construction work have stopped for the day. The external walkways and garage are flushed with water daily to remove the dust and debris that settle on them daily. Looks like we cannot avoid it so have to take things in stride. At least after that we will have neigbors again, hopefully good ones.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pou Chuk

This means to boil porridge in Cantonese and the term is used to describe chatting over the phone for a long period without a care to the charges incurred. This term was coined over 10 years ago when the cost of making calls became affordable and making long distance calls were more popular than writing letters which was a cumbersome task to many people. The term may be taken to describe what the housewives would do while waiting for her porridge to cook which takes some time, that is make long distance phone calls.

Several months ago when I subscribed to the Streamyx Blockbuster Deal 110 (which is a combination broadband voice package with 1Mbps max download speed) the phone company promoted it by offering free unlimited fixed line-to-fixed line calls nationwide. It became an instant hit for families and friends to connect as well as slowdown the rising trend of going mobile and wireless. I too had contemplated cancelling my fixed phone line when I then had to pay for national calls with a limited 60 hours monthly Internet access paying RM44 for Internet connection and RM26 for fixed line rental which was ridiculous. That translated to over RM70 monthly for limited Internet and a careful usage of fixed line calls. The Blockbuster Deal 110 charges RM110 for unlimited Internet access and unlimited fixed line calls. It suits me and my wife who can now pou chuk with her grand daughter Victoria and father any time and for any length of time.

I was getting a little impatient with the download speed so I thought spending another RM30 monthly to upgrade my broadband to 4Mbps, a 4-fold increase from 1Mbps, will be a terrific deal. I signed up some 2 weeks ago. Although the voice package was unchanged, my wife still boiling porridge over the phone, I felt taken for a ride. I was like buying a Porche and promised a 200kph speed on the previous 110kph limit on the Internet highway. However I cold not feel the speed. Video still stream as slowly as before and buffering take some time. Web pages load up at the same old speed, maybe a little faster but not noticeably so. Speed tests using various tools confirm the faster download speeds, varying from 2-4 Mbps, but somehow this did not translate into actual experience. Was there some undiscovered bottlenecks that can be opened up? For me as I wait I may do some pou chuk myself literally speaking.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

National Foundation

Malaya (that's correct, for we achieved independence as Malaya in 1957 but became Malaysia only in 1963 when Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak joined up) will turn 54 this August 31 and as far as I can feel it there is absolutely no sign that we are excited over this birthday event. Years ago the government would be preparing for this grand occasion. A working committee would be formed to plan the programs as well as publicize the theme for the celebration. Banners would be erected to remind the citizens what we are celebrating about. And the public would get all excited into buying mini flags to decorate their motor cycles and cars. Traders would don their lorries, offices would display the national flags and in the residential areas many homes would start putting up the nation's flags outside the gates to show their love for the nation. Contests would be held in schools to write the best essays and the public would go all out to attend the morning rallies in the town halls.

But today we are no longer interested in feeling gay over this big day which most of the citizens treat as any other public holiday. Maybe the fasting month make people less energetic but I don't think so. I think people are being drowned by too many negative developments to feel the need or the mood to celebrate. Cost of living keeps spiraling. Racial relationship is soured by religious raids and the governments seen to always deny that we are having problems with our economy. Rather than sitting down to solve the growing pile of problems they are more interested in defending their stake in controlling the seat of the federal government by whatever means. Compared with the Malaysia of the 1970s I think our national foundation has suffered termite attacks!

In my previous post I stated categorically that people form the basic foundation of an organization. I hope the government realize that the citizens form the foundation of our nation. Yet a sizeable population are living at near poverty level which is constantly shifting upward by changing and rising cost of living. Today RM3000 monthly income is hardly sufficient to support a small family and in many cases even a single person with car and housing loans to settle and aged parents to support. No wonder young people are delaying marriage, or not getting married, or delay having kids. This trend is affecting the population profile with more and more old people staying alive than new babies being born. Worst, this is now complicated by foreign workers residing in the country, majority of them illegal. The worrying trend is also of many from a neighboring country easily given citizenship which now change what is the real Malaysian cocktail. A nation that is more mixed up than ever and losing its identity and direction. A nation without pride or loyalty. A nation been used to promote self gain with no respect for others or the environment. Such is our despair as we head into the final decade before Mahathir's dream of developed status in 2020. But of what use is this target now if the foundation has been wrongly prepared all these years?

There is no mood to celebrate our Independence Day or Merdeka, nor Malaysia Day on 16 September. Instead the mood is on beating the government into oblivion for doing a lousy job of bringing Malaysia to where we are today. Too many scandals and corruption tales to list here but Google them yourself. Today I read that prime minister Najib has instructed his ministers to get on the ground after Hari Raya, i.e. from after first week September, to get feedbacks, meaning election is very very soon. Hopefully not on my Hanoi holiday period in October.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Foundation Building

Every building construction begins from the foundation after its plans have been drawn, studied and approved. Likewise we approach our life similarly and not haphazardly although at times we may need to make deviations due to unplanned developments. However if we plan carefully we minimize such risks. Having thought carefully how our life mission is to be then we plan the building process. Can this be applied to a child in his growing years by his parents? It is hard but not impossible although many parents seldom take this approach or take it in a piecemeal manner. Planning and building are the two vital pillars for a successful growth of any organization, even a person. However some build without a plan and others plan but fail to build. A successful mission is one that complements each other and you will see the fruits of the efforts made years later.

What makes a foundation strong? A physical structure is made of sand and stone and in some cases, steel bars as well. But an organization such as a church, a company or a charitable society is made up of people foundation, not bricks and mortar. It is vital to build this human foundation with the right values and motivation for it is they who sustains the work and growth of the places they contribute their efforts.

Every foundation supports the structure that sits upon it. If the first floor cracks it means a poorly built foundation. Conventional wisdom tells us that every lower floor becomes the foundation for the next floor and the combined strength of all the lower floors make the next higher floor more stable. You understand when you imagine the acrobat gymnasts climbing up one on each other to build a human tower. However there is always a limit. I reckon we cannot go on building taller and taller structures, or larger and larger corporations. Other external factors will harm the building or the organization causing great devastation the taller or bigger they become.

Another thought I like to share is the need to allow a foundation to set before it has to bear a load. Otherwise it is unprepared for its role of providing support. So are the many human institutions like education, marriage, faith and career building. The common factor is time. Great people share the common characteristics of having gone through time tested trials for such are the foundation stones that mark their eminence. If we examine the monumental historic man made structures that still stand the test of time, you will realize that they had all been built upon solid ground and with strong foundations. Which brings up the final but the most important point, which is that no matter how strong we design and build our life's foundation, if we build it in the wrong place, like upon quicksand it will surely fail.

Given a right place, a man whose life hangs without a foundation is one who drifts aimlessly, settling nowhere and producing no concrete results for himself or his family or his community. What a waste that life is!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sitiawan Nite



My wife and I drove to Klang for this function organized by the OPA of my alma mater, Anglo Chinese School, Sitiawan, and some volunteer organizers to gather friends from my hometown, even from different schools, for a time of reminiscence and enjoyment. As one of the organizers said, when we grow old and children leave us, who else do we turn to but friends of old? Even though we may not have kept faithful contact, memories of former classmates always rekindle friendships anew. So it was with this thought that I set aside yesterday to meet up with my old friends. I was disappointed that some did not make it although they live in the vicinity but I was encouraged by others who came from even farther than me.

The venue was the Restoran Taman Rashna and former class monitor Kao gave clear directions though I also used my GPS to double check. We arrived earlier to chat a little. The combination of good food, good conversation, free beer, free table gifts and free door gifts made the event a great winner. And it cost just RM50 a head.

Leaving the restaurant at 10.30pm I depended on my GPS now loaded with a new updated map to get home.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reflecting Our Lives

This morning I received a lovely PowerPoint file with scenic and serene pictures of nature reflecting through mirrors of calm and peaceful waters. It is almost as if the real and its image are twins. It was a very therapeutic experience just studying each of these photo. I begin reflecting this thought: is the life we live a true reflection of our true self? Or are there pockets of deceptions in the way we reveal ourselves to families, friends and strangers that hide who we really are? I guess not many of us can claim we show our true personality to others, we often hide some, and act up something else to show the side we want revealed even if it isn't real. Lies never survive in the calm of lives. True reflections are easily destroyed when the waters are disturbed. So when we are not at peace within we cannot reflect our true being. And with that the loss of tranquility and peaceful living.

Faster Speed No Assurance of Faster Download

On Monday afternoon the Internet connection to my home line was finally upgraded to 4Mbps after a week's wait. However, to my disappointment this did not translate into faster download. Tests from the TM server in Cyberjaya produced consistently 3-4 Mbps speed but download speeds from servers in Sydney, Capetown, Amsterdam and Washington DC were miserably low at 0.4-0.6 Mbps while servers along the west coast of the United States produced better results of around 1.8Mbps. What this means to me is that there are faulty fibre optic cables that slow down data transmission in international waters. Until they are restored I and hundreds of similar subscribers who hope for faster connections will be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A New Heart for my Smartphone

Last week my Galaxy Ace suddenly decided to shutdown randomly, on Saturday 5 times and I had to restart it every time. It wasn't battery strength and most likely hardware or OS related. I went onto the Android Forum for an answer, most of the suggestions I've tried before when the same problem first surfaced around June. Why it recur now was puzzling and I felt I need to bring it in for repair since it is still under warranty. Before I proceeded I had the contacts and bookmarks backed up but I was disappointed the apps I installed could not be backed up like the iPad can through the iTune. To be sure I can find them again quickly from the Market I wrote them down, some 30 of them, and then brought the phone to the Samsung service centre. The technician Ah Yee, a personable Chinese man, was very helpful. He made sure that I know what will happen to my smartphone, that everything in it will be wiped out when he flash in the operating system again. It was still the Android 2.2.1 (Froyo). The 2.3 (Gingerbread) is still not officially available for this model. As I waited Ah Yee changed a new heart for my Galaxy Ace and it was done in 15 minutes. To assure me that service is paramount, he said that should the problem recur he will replace the chipset for me. That's nice.

Now my smartphone is faster and doesn't drain the battery as fast and is cooler. After a full recharge last night the battery level is still a healthy 82% 12 hours later at a near standby mode with wifi switched on to receive emails. Last night I decided to install back some 60% of the previously installed apps. The rest I deem not relevant to my needs.

I hope that I will have a trouble free use of my Galaxy Ace for a long time.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Age and Reliability

I read a 2 year old report by SquareTrade on the reliability of mobile computers which observed that on average one third will fail from hardware malfunction in 3 years, and that netbooks have a higher failure rate than laptops. Among laptops the premium brands are marginally more durable. This is not an earth shaking revelation and certainly not surprising, although very disappointing that failure should begin so early. I think nothing should ever fail within 5 years of purchase/use but maybe this apply only to goods made 100 years ago!

Seriously, I wonder if mass production and using faster end of life materials and engineering designs to spur the business competitiveness and survival may not contribute significantly to shorter shelf life of many products we use nowadays, such that they allow the disposable mentality to creep into our thinking process? It is scary to think that vital hardware like hard disks are now undependable for long life data storage. Many hard disks fail within 6 months of use! In the past older, slower and smaller capacity disks can last as long as the computer is alive, but nowadays some hard disks die faster than their motherboards. Imagine buying a product on instalments and it died before it is fully repaid.

I believe that anything that is reliable during its first 2 years stand a great chance of not failing on you later. Subject to you not abusing it through manhandling or over use. That also if the product was well made, which is what we hope for but are seldom assured. Product warranties are given to protect the buyers, not from failures but from financial loss through repair costs since the warranted goods will be made good during the covered period. Have you heard of a computer warranted for 5 years? Yes, it can but you just have to pay a much higher premium. Higher warranty is not better reliability. Reliability and reputation are related, but reputation is not the same as brand awareness. Lots of companies spent millions to make their products well known in the hope that the public associate awareness with quality, which unfortunately is a term misused to score unfair advantage over gullible consumers. Quality is reliability, it is not appearance, it is not design, it is not specifications, and certainly nothing to do with price. Many people associate a more expensive model to be of better quality than its lower end counterpart. Think this: is flying business a quality flight then economy apart from bigger seats, better food and better stewardess attention? Not for the abominable price that is 3-5 times more! Sometimes I think business people are not very sharp or smart but I salute top brass who dare travel economy and eat side stalls because they don't believe price = quality.

All things age. This is the reality of physical life, and I believe only the spirits live forever. Some of us disillusioned with the imperfect world wish to expire early to join their now perfected friends and loved ones above. I wonder if computers can think like this too!

I don't think we should ever expect things to last forever, maybe just to outlast us. But to see them dying after just a couple of years is unacceptable. We cannot be spending our life adapting to replacements. It isn't the money or the technology. Believe it or not, we do form a bond to things we owe, which we hope will last for much longer than their warranties.

My Dell laptop is aging. It is just 3+ years but I discover this is already 'old' for a computer. Sad. I was just learning to like it and now I have to think of what to replace it. If it malfunction again and show signs of unreliability I may do just that. With technology improving so fast maybe I'd like the idea but is there a conspiracy that my new laptop or desktop will also last just as long?

A terrible thought. Human relationship have just joined this short term culture. The generation Y is impatient and used to the disposable way of life. They will make and break relationships like use and throw lifestyle. Divorce rates will skyrocket and maybe people no longer marry, they just hit off and then beat it, as the late Michael Jackson sang it.

Oldies like me, well, we may be obsolete by modern high tech standards but we have longer shelf lives and we do have a thing or two to teach the world, that age = reliability.

Update: My 4 months old Samsung smartphone is malfunctioning again! I think they should stop calling them smartphones. Here's an extreme example of reliability. I bought the National Dimension 4 microwave oven in March 1986 for RM1650, a princely sum. That was over 25 years ago and it still purrs every time we use it. And my Camry of 1999 is as old as our eldest daughter marriage and still fetch the family on errands. We are not ashamed of its age as it stood proudly beside its newer sibling just 2 years old. The grand daddy of all is the 30 year old piano bought for our eldest daughter to play. Well, it is now banged on by her children and played by our eldest grand daughter whenever she visits.



Friday, August 12, 2011

Neighbors Alive!

An unfamiliar sound drift into my house as I blog this. A motorized cement mixer is sounding like a twin engine propeller plane warming up to lift off. It is both welcomed and unwelcomed. The unwelcoming part is not the noise but the dirt and dust coming from my rear neighbor's house that is going to be extended. Two days ago contractors came to clear the compound and prepare the ground to add extra buildup rooms that will extend right against our common party wall. It is illegal as the buildings bylaws require a set off of at least 10 feet between buildings to minimize fire hazards, but many residents simply ignore this and are willing to pay penalties instead. Laws are simply flouted. After the renovation we will get a new neighbor, hopefully someone kind, friendly and environmentally responsible.

Our neighbor next to us on higher ground sold off his property recently to a military engineer who also plan to add extra rooms. He will put up 2 rooms, one on top of the other, near to where my home office is. Although the work hasn't started yet, I am not confident I will be spared of more noise, dust and debris. Hopefully the building contractor will be civil and considerate.

Hemmed in by 2 renovation works for at least 2 months I hope there will be an improvement when the new residents move in to make the neighborhood more alive and safer. For now life is not as peaceful or the air clean. My wife had moved the laundry racks to the front garden to reduce pollution on the clothings, especially the children's.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wonderfully Mathis!

His crisp and hallmark voice is inimitable. Johnny Mathis is in a class of his own. I first heard his songs 50 years ago from a vinyl record belonging to my auntie and was hooked by them. They captured a young boy's heart. Johnny's songs will always stay evergreen and bring me a certain smile. Here are my favorites.

















Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Little Bit of Soap

I'm glad to discover these 2 gem on YouTube. The Fabulous Echoes was a Hong Kong band of 6 members who was very popular in Malaysia and other SE Asian countries in the early 1960s where these became hits, beating those from the west. Malaysians of my age can surely recall the happy days listening, clapping, singing and dancing along to these songs.



Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Where Can You Hide Away?

The financial fallout from the United States has struck Asian stock markets since last Friday and continue to create waves of devastations. No end is in sight and I wonder if we are in for a difficult time again. Snippets from Bloomberg News today:

Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Asian stocks sank, extending a two- week rout that has erased $7.8 trillion in global equity values, and oil tumbled below $80 a barrel on concern the loss of the U.S.’s AAA rating will exacerbate a slowing global recovery. Treasury 10-year yields climbed from the lowest since January 2009, while the yen, Swiss franc and gold rallied.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slumped 2.5 percent at 1:56 p.m. in Tokyo, paring losses of as much as 5.5 percent. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures slid 1.6 percent after yesterday’s drop, the most since December 2008. Treasury 10-year yields rose one basis point to 2.33 percent. The yen strengthened 0.7 percent against the dollar and the franc gained 0.4 percent. Oil fell 4.6 percent in New York and gold topped $1,760 an ounce.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his colleagues will meet today as the unprecedented downgrade of the U.S.’s top credit rating increases the likelihood that America’s recovery will falter. Data showed inflation in China accelerated to the fastest pace in three years, limiting the scope for monetary easing in the economy that had led the rebound from the global recession in 2009.

“Fear has taken over,” said Paul Xiradis, who manages about $12 billion in assets as chief of Ausbil Dexia Ltd. in Sydney. “It’s like a rapid fire burning away the market, but like all things, it’s going to exhaust itself eventually. There are obviously still concerns about what’s happening in the U.S., Europe and China, but it appears to me we’re seeing all the classic signs of a blowout or a climax.”


Many of us stand helpless watching the calamity and just pray that the markets will find their footings soon and stage some recovery to restore investor confidence. But for now just enjoy the oldie below. Where can you hide away?

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Little Giant

I was surprised with the announcement last Saturday that Air Asia will swap its shares with MAS to own 20% of the latter. Today, in THIS report I read that MAS CEO is likely to be replaced which is the usual recourse when the body is unwell the head is changed. In fact MAS chairman was recently replaced so more reorganization will take place to rescue the ailing national airline which have not have a profitable business record ever since it was privatized and later brought back under the government's majority control. Running to Tony Fenandes, CEO of Air Asia, to help the transformation of MAS (at a cost, no less a face too) is the right way to salvage the broken pieces. Hopefully through cross holding Tony will see his 20% vested interest significant enough to raise up the aging airline to health, but not at the expense of his own in the long haul sector. Some shareholders of Air Asia may balk at this scheme, which I believe was initiated by the government and Tony had to play to its tune (call it national service if you will) since MAS cannot be a national embarrassment. Today I read in the papers that MAS market capitalization at RM5.347 billion is just about half that of Air Asia's RM10.967 billion which is shocking since Air Asia is a relatively new airline. What make the difference is the head and the business model and culture.

Malaysia Airlines commenced operations in 1987 after the airline changed its name from Malaysian Airline System. The airline began in 1947 as Malayan Airways, being renamed Malaysian Airways after Malaysia gained independence. After that, it changed its name once more to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines and thereafter ceased its operation. It was then divided into Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines. (Source: Wikipedia)

AirAsia was established in 1993 and commenced operations on 18 November 1996. It was originally founded by a government-owned conglomerate DRB-Hicom. On 2 December 2001, the heavily-indebted airline was purchased by former Time Warner executive Tony Fernandes's company Tune Air Sdn Bhd for the token sum of one ringgit (about $USD0.40 at the time). This was after great deliberation as the initial offer was fifty sen. Fernandes proceeded to engineer a remarkable turnaround, turning a profit in 2002 and launching new routes from its hub in Kuala Lumpur International Airport at breakneck speed, undercutting former monopoly operator Malaysia Airlines with promotional fares as low as RM1 (US$0.27). AirAsia is Asia's largest low-fare, no-frills airline and a pioneer of low-cost travel in Asia. (Source: Wikipedia)

Tony Fenandes is a successful business turnaround artiste and his penetration in MAS should be viewed positively although you may call it simply a rescue mission. But that's what a Malaysian ought to do to another Malaysian, right? I am sure Tony has given his wish list to the government and in the coming years Air Asia will no longer be treated like a stepchild anymore.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Upgrading to Faster Broadband

Last November I decided on unlimited Internet access. Previously I felt it was a waste to be logged on continuously when I don't need the service. But the inconvenience and cheaper access cost (with unlimited free national calls to fixed lines) made me decide to be always online and the past 8 months has been life transforming. I literally live on the Net and the iPad and smartphone gave me the joy to be 'live' all the time. But I was on just 1Mbps download access speed which is really slow. A few days ago I discovered streaming movie of HD quality. I was hooked and discovered another dimension of cyber life I can live on. So I thought I should upgrade.

On Friday I went to the phone company service centre and put in my application to upgrade to the 4Mbps download speed. It will cost me a little more each month but the deal is definitely worth it. My 'trial' has confirmed life on the fast Internet lane is here to stay. This afternoon a technician came to my house to demonstrate to me that he had made the necessary equipment connection to allow the faster Internet connection. Technically the new speed limit is already at my doorstep which just need activation from the server. Over the next few days I will experience the 4x speed boost. I know I am going to like it.

Updated August 15, 2.00pm. I finally connect to the Internet at 4Mbps download speed.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Sukiyaki

This was one of the most endearing Japanese songs I like and it remain one of my favorites till today although I can't sing the original version but the English version sung by the Blue Diamonds. Sukiyaki was sung by Kyu Sakamoto, a pimply Japanese singer in 1963.

The following was extracted from Wikipedia.

Sakamoto was born in Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture as the youngest among nine siblings—his nickname Kyu, meaning 'nine', is an alternate reading of the kanji for his given name (Hisashi). His parents, Hiroshi Sakamoto and Iku Sakamoto, both worked at a restaurant. Sakamoto is cousin to the free-jazz saxophonist Kaoru Abe. In high school Sakamoto began to sing and became very popular. In 1958 he joined the Japanese pop-band "The Drifters" as a singer.

On August 12, 1985, Kyu Sakamoto died in the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123.

Sukiyaki was popular in both Japan and the States where it topped the billboard chart for 3 weeks in 1963, a feat for a Japanese song unrivalled till today. Sukiyaki was not the name of the Japanese song which was called Ue o muite aruko (translated as 'I look up when I walk') but was chosen for the western listeners as the name was easier to pronounce and sound 'Japanese' although it refers to a popular Japanese dish usually containing beef and vegetables simmered in a pot containing water and sauce. The lyrics told the story of a man who looks up and whistles as he walks so that his tears won't fall to the ground. But the lyrics of the Blue Diamonds version was more romantic.

The Lyrics by Kyu Sakamoto:

Looking up while walking
Ue wo muite arukou
上を向いて歩こう

So the tears won't fall
Namida ga koborenai youni
涙がこぼれないように

Remembering those spring days
Omoidasu haru no hi
思い出す春の日

All alone at night
Hitoribocchi no yoru
一人ぼっちの夜

Looking up while walking
Ue wo muite arukou
上を向いて歩こう

And counting the scattered stars
Nijinda hoshi wo kazoete
にじんだ星をかぞえて

Remembering those summer days
Omoidasu natsu no hi
思い出す夏の日

All alone at night
Hitoribocchi no yoru
一人ぼっちの夜

Happiness lies above the clouds
Shiawase wa kumo no ue ni
幸せは雲の上に

Happiness lies above the sky
Shiawase wa sora no ue ni
幸せは空の上に

Looking up while walking
Ue wo muite arukou
上を向いて歩こう

So the tears won't fall
Namida ga koborenai youni
涙がこぼれないように

Keep walking on, while crying
Naki nagara aruku
泣きながら歩く

It's a lonely night
Hitoribocchi no yoru
一人ぼっちの夜

Remembering those autumn days
Omoidasu aki no hi
思い出す秋の日

Sadness is in the shadow of the stars
Kanashimi wa hoshi no kage ni
悲しみは星の影に

Sadness is in the shadow of the moon
Kanashimi wa tsuki no kage ni
悲しみは月の影に

Looking up while walking
Ue wo muite arukou
上を向いて歩こう

So the tears won't fall
Namida ga koborenai youni
涙がこぼれないように

Keep walking on, while crying
Naki nagara aruku
泣きながら歩く

It's a lonely night
Hitoribocchi no yoru
一人ぼっちの夜

It's a lonely night
Hitoribocchi no yoru
一人ぼっちの夜


The Lyrics by Blue Diamonds

The charms of Sukiyaki
The arms of Sukiyaki
Are all I long for since I left old Nagasaki
Why did I roam far away from home
I hope that she will wait for me

Her smile cannot deceive me
Sweet almond eyes don't leave me
My whole life through I'll be true, darling please believe me
That if I say I'll be back someday
Promise that you will wait for me

When orange blossoms are starting to bloom
We will be united a bride and a groom

I'll take my Sukiyaki
And make my Sukiyaki
The only queen to be seen in old Nagasaki
And from our home we will never roam
When I make Sukiyaki mine

Why did I roam
Far away from home
I hope that she will wait for me

When orange blossoms are starting to bloom
We will be united a bride and a groom

I'll take my Sukiyaki
And make my Sukiyaki
The only queen to be seen in old Nagasaki
And from our home we will never roam
When I make Sukiyaki mine

And from our home
We will never roam
When I make Sukiyaki mine
When I make Sukiyaki mine
All mine

New Gardener

A few years ago when I was younger and my back stronger I used to mow my own lawn and trim/prune my own garden shrubs. However I realized this is becoming difficult so I relied upon contract gardeners to do the work once every 6 weeks or so. The first was a Chinese fella with a Indonesian employee. They did a good job and I paid him cash every time he finishes the work. But he is a complainer, he complains of this and that, and seldom see his life and work positively. I played along with him since his work was good, he was careful and cleaned up after he finishes. I paid him RM80 which included fertilising the garden and weeding the planter box. For some reason he decided not to continue even after I booked him. Yet he chose to continue servicing other homes that hold back his payments. Odd. Anyway that was his problem and I started looking for other gardeners.

The next one did a few rounds and stopped on his own. It wasn't that my garden was extra large or hard to mow or I underpay, or hold back payment, or create excessive and unreasonable demands. Whatever the reason, I had to look for a new gardener. I contracted the de facto gardener of my housing estate. His name is M. I knew M since the day I moved in and I decided to use him. We agreed on RM60 which does not include the extras provided by the Chinese contractor. M was petty and uncooperative when asked to do a little extra. For over a year he was OK then he started to miss the appointment dates we agreed. I felt it was discourteous to agree and not show so again I just let it go. Maybe he has too much business that he doesn't appreciate his customers, or he is plain indifferent. Again I decided I am not going to be held ransom by my contractor gardener so I got hold of the Bangladeshi contractor who painted my house last year who happily came and did the work in June. My grouse was he does not have a mower but just a trimmer so the grass cutting work was messy. I used him to tie over until I can find a better gardener with proper tools.

I was introduced to the current gardener, K, by my pest control technician. He is a retiree and cut grass to pass time as well as earn a small income. I was a little sceptical about him when he forgot he has an appointment with me today and I had to remind him yesterday, but I thought I should not prejudge him.

This morning he showed up late. He came at 10am instead of 9.30am as he promised me and I was already planning to use the Bangladeshi contractor, or my back neighbour's contractor, as a back up, since my lawn is getting quite wild. K showed up in his rickety van with 3 other workers. Among them they had a lawn mower and 2 trimmers. We negotiate a price. I said I will pay RM60 for the same scope of work M provided. K and his team went to work and finished at 11am. I was happy with the quality and his work attitude. I decided to up the fee to RM65 this round and in future to RM70 which was his asking price. But I was sad to hear from him that he plan to retire from gardening end of the year and I quickly told him to connect me to another gardener who will take over his 50+ clients. I don't want to be left high and dry without a reliable gardener next year.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Ask Respect, Show Respect

In my recent post on Are We Not Over-Reacting? I wrote:

Yet the reminder was gentle and kind and I believe done without malice. It said that while it is good that you are part of our Ramadan celebration but please to respect our tradition and show some good manner and respect. I believe it is a fair reminder and request.

A day later, that very night a mainline church, Damansara Utama Methodist Church, in Petaling Jaya, was raided by Islamic religious officers supported by the police for undisclosed reasons. The senior pastor of the church revealed that some 15 Malays were there attending a thanksgiving dinner held in its premise. That may have a connection to the raid but as no search warrant was produced, the raid was deemed illegal, high handed and totally disrespectful. It smack of thievery and arrogance that the raiders believe they are above the laws. Of course the news escalated protests and disbelief that such an incident still continue to recur in this multi-religious nation.

In the hastily withdrawn TV advertisements, the non-Muslims were reminded to not be carried away but should respect and display good manners to the Muslims during their Ramadan celebration. Likewise wouldn't it be fair to ask the JAIS and the police to do likewise to people of other faith? They are entering a church building! They are disrupting a private event. They gate crashed! They lack common courtesy. They lack respect. They must apologize for their highhandedness. Whatever the reason or excuse the raid cannot support the argument that it has to take place in the dark.

We can all say this has nothing to do with politics. In Malaysia today, unfortunately, EVERY news is colored with politics. As of now, the highest level reaction has come from the chief minister of Selangor, the state in which the incident occurred, who asked for an explanation from JAIS before consulting with the Sultan of Selangor. I don't know if a remark will come from the prime minister at all who so aggressively promoted the 1Malaysia culture. Like it or not the public are viewing the incident as a Muslim authority raid against a Christian held event. How bad can this get? And what impact on the soon to come general election? It is anyone's guess for now.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A World Without Music ..

Is like a world without colors, trees without flowers, words without feelings, life without purpose. Music drives our existence and spice our emotion. How do we dance without music? Sing without a tune? Love without a song? A world devoid of music is a sad world, like a funeral walk without a sound. A world without music cannot be happy and will have no radio stations!

I don't know from who I inherited my musical gifts, perhaps from my mother. Her genes are more dominant in us. None of us siblings play a significant musical instrument but all of us can pitch and sing, although not to a professional skill but my youngest brother. He has a near opera voice. Music has filled my life since as a kid. It is not surprising that if I had a wish it is to be a pop star, like my idol Cliff Richard, to hold my fans attention in awe and admiration. Although this is wishful thinking, pretending is cheap thrill of creating a stage of my own, satisfying a void, nursing a hungry appetite and then letting go what is not to be.

Music soothe my soul, gives me peace, connects me to my past, colors my life. If I am suddenly deaf I will be very sad and frustrated. Perhaps then I shall find solace in Simon & Garfunkel's 'Sound of Silence'. For now it is Julie Andrew's 'Sound of Music' that take control and flavors my day. But woe to the world the day the music die ... (Don McLean)





Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Growing Concerns on Malaysian Affairs

Out of curiosity I scanned my posts under the various labels and was shocked to discover that I wrote the most on Malaysian Politics & Society followed by Oversea Holidays, a distant second spot. My first post on MP&S was written HERE on February 4, 2009 which triggered my anger over the shameful and unconstitutional usurpation of power by the Barisan Nasional coalition from Pakatan Rakyat after the latter lost 3 state seats through defection. I lost my respect for BN there and then. I am sure I wasn't the only angry person. I believe most men and women in the street and in the coffee shops were as frustrated and upset. I believe they too switched political allegiance from that day. I wasn't interested in politics until the 12th general election of February 8, 2008 but it was what that occurred nearly a year later that make me decide to pay more attention to the political development and evolution of my country, which was why I wrote about current events over 240 times in over 2 years.

Most of the time I wrote negatively because I was disillusioned and angry at how shallow and clueless our government leadership was and is. It was a sad reflection of how impoverished our government had become, and it all happened under the current prime minister. Sometimes I refuse to write anymore as it seemed helpless but let commentaries by other writers to be shared here. I refuse to criticize the stupidity of our leaders. I won't waste time criticizing someone undeserving. However I will still write about my beloved Malaysia. Stripped of the government we see lovely Malaysians living in harmony. Many are suffering from high costs of living, poor housing and declining standard of education and public safety. I really long for responsible leaders who will help stabilize race unity and strengthen our economy. I am sure with constructive leadership we can heal our years of brokenness and separation. Let us learn to reconcile and restore the best in us. I look forward to the days my posts under this label will be happy and positive, not so much about poor governance and corruption but about human goodness.

A few months ago I blogged about patriotism. I concluded that we are loyal to our homeland and it is the government that made many of us feel alienated, unwanted and unappreciated. Whatever our skin colors or our faith, our blood run the same red color through our veins. Like the trees of many species they may be different externally but they carry life giving sap (latex) from the ground to the leaves. Malaysia is a land of plenty. Manage it well we will be a happier lot and millions of our best will stay home to serve the nation. Sadly today millions of our best are replaced by millions of unskilled foreign workers making Malaysia a rojak (pickled fruit salad) nation.

Choose the right government we stand a very good chance of recovering our lost years and be competitive again. This is what we adults owe to our children and grandchildren. The change will neither be smooth nor easy. There will be plenty of sabotage and back stabbing but if we persevere and put our trust in a new team of leaders I believe we will see the fruits of our efforts in as little as 5 years. Whoever our political leaders may be, we must NEVER give them a blank cheque to run our nation. Use our votes to check their performance so we can have the best government to make us a truly prosperous country to be envied.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Are We Not Over-Reacting?

Watching this Ramadan advertisement which has since been retracted makes me wonder how far apart race relation has drifted in our nation. We are ultra sensitive when actors from different race backgrounds are portrayed in roles that suggest some form of compromise. In this video the obviously Chinese girl was shown to be overly zealous, buddy and insensitive in the presence of Muslims during their holy month of Ramadan. The reaction? A call to be polite, discreet, courteous and considerate. Which in itself a good universal trait. Except that we tend to read between the lines. If this video is screened as part of public education series it would have fulfilled its purpose without creating an uproar. Personally I find it all unnecessary if we look at the message objectively.

Firstly, this is Ramadan. To the Muslims it is a very serious period of self reflection and pilgrimage of life. Some take it very seriously, others obligatorily but non-Muslims are to respect their Muslim counterpart as much as we ask them the same. This is a sign of maturity in race relationship that we sorely lack.

Secondly, we have a girl who hugged a pakcik, asking for discounts. Totally poorly mannered, even in this modern society, and in normal time, definitely in bad taste during Ramadan. If the actor had been a Malay instead the reaction would be different. But the implications, unfortunately, is that Chinese, especially the teenagers, are badly brought up to be disrespectful of the older people, in particular of other races, and sadly during their holy month. It sends the message that their parents are at fault or equally uncouth. And the video unwittingly widens the rift between some Muslims and non-Muslims.

Yet the reminder was gentle and kind and I believe done without malice. It said that while it is good that you are part of our Ramadan celebration but please to respect our tradition and show some good manner and respect. I believe it is a fair reminder and request.

We are already been poisoned by some of our politicians that continually pit the Malays against the Chinese and Indians and vice versa to the point that we look upon each other with suspicion and fear. Let us see the advertisement for what it tries to teach. Show respect and goodwill. I think if we take away our prejudice and celebrate our commonality and joint destiny in our beloved homeland, we can see humor and value in the ad, and learn how to grow up and be better human beings in the process. Let us not stretch our race relationship to breaking point by letting trivial matters burden the larger goal of growing our nation.

I want to wish my Muslim colleagues and friends to forge goodwill and friendship. Most of us are stuck in Malaysia and likely to die here. So let us make the best of what we have and build each other up.

I Pretend

Des O'Connor is one singer I've not seen (until now) and whose song I Pretend is the only one of his songs I know. Yet it has found a place in my memory because the lyrics connect me to a time when I was struggling with a failed love. In the moments of loneliness and despair I borrowed Des song to express how I felt. Now, each time I listen to it I return to that year when I lost my first love. Des is 79 but surprisingly 'energetic' and positive. Read THIS latest news about the soon-to-be octogenarian.

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