Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where Do You Spent Most of Your Time?

Many of us will answer in the office or in the kitchen. But the correct answer is in the bedroom. On average 7-8 hours will be spent there and most of it on the bed of course. In the bedroom dreams are formed, secrets are shared, intimacy enhanced and rest restored. We tend to invest in our living room, our kitchen, our bathrooms and our gardens. We consider our bedrooms to be where we put our tired bodies down for the night and shut off our life but really should make them the most comfortable and enjoyable spot in our homes. There children spend their childhood sleeping with us, where stories are read before they sleep. These are treasured moments.

Are our rooms to our liking? Are they large enough, of the pleasing design, layout and color theme? Is the bed suitable and firm? Is the room well ventilated and suitably lit for a good sleep? These and a myriad of other factors can turn an ordinary bedroom into a palatial one that entice husband and wife to adjourn to as day ends.

If you are looking for a new house or getting into renovating one, thinking of making your bedroom a welcome evening sojourn will help improve relationship and waken you to a new day.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pakatan's Weakest Link

As the general election looms and excitement fills the air that we may be just weeks into welcoming in a new government with a shared vision and value system based upon justice, equality and trust, we are constantly reminded and confronted by an unstable coalition partnership. Pakatan was formed through the initiative of Keadilan, the party formed and led by the charismatic and some may even say, controversial leader, Anwar Ibrahim. Keadilan is the youngest and smallest partner with the bigger and stronger DAP representing primarily Chinese interest although it has lately managed to attract more non-Chinese membership to debunk its racist countenance; and PAS the Islamist party that thrive on the platform of pursuing a regime governed upon Islamic principles, doctrines and way of life. Even though each of the coalition partners carry in their intrinsic weaknesses, by far the most worrisome are from PAS. Let us review them individually.

Keadilan
This party has a multiracial composition like by most Malaysians. On the surface it represents what we aspire although the membership and leadership are predominantly Malays. Never mind that since the Malays are majority in the country so should be appropriately reflected in its roll. The struggle by Keadilan is towards a society that is just and equitable, a clarion call citizens who love and are patriotic to their country can identify with. Given a choice we would like Keadilan to be the biggest coalition partner. Sadly it is not. Although Malays accept the party ideology some may feel it is giving too much lee ways to meritocracy and forgetting the Malay roots and struggle that continue to haunt many Malays who felt progress may destroy their identity and importance in national growth and be swept aside by the more aggressive and hardy Chinese community who are a perceived threat to their dominance in all spheres of human activities. Keadilan is the right approach towards a new Malaysia that will unshackle our ghost to the past colonial dependence on the British. But will the majority Malays have faith in its vision?

DAP
Ask anyone the answer will be it is the Chinese opposition party. Perhaps it is due to the strong party leadership of Lim Kit Siang and his son Lim Guan Eng. DAP makes no excuse that its struggle is Chinese rooted but also claim to represent the larger interest of championing the Malaysian Malaysia concept mooted much earlier than the similar 1Malaysia slogan introduced by the current government administration under Najib Razak. DAP is often compared to MCA, the Chinese component party of Barisan government that has apparently failed in its role and duty. DAP is poised to be the Chinese voice and more. Its weakness is the non-Chinese citizens are uncomfortable with its too Chinese membership and philosophy. Efforts to increase Malay and Indian membership have not succeeded well.

PAS
Arguably this party has survived incredibly over 50 years of Barisan dominance but that was only in the more backward eastern and northern states that are more rural and Malay based. Obviously the Malays there like PAS more than UMNO, the Barisan's Malay party due perhaps to the fact that PAS adheres closer to Islamic teachings and are less corruptible (perhaps conditions are not yet in place to facilitate the slide). PAS tend to waver in pushing its Islamic principles towards the non-Malays who like them one way but suspect them for being patient in waiting for the right time to Islamize the nation which make non-Malays uncomfortable. Given the chance PAS will demand that Pakatan follow its principles. Its greatest weakness lie in tendency towards a religious governance unacceptable in multiracial Malaysia where a sizable 38% of the population are not Malays. Raising issues of Syariah laws for Malays only fail to assure the non-Malays that it will not be extended to them if PAS become too powerful and dominate Pakatan.

Who will lead Pakatan?
It was almost a done deal that Anwar Ibrahim will be prime minister should it come into power. He is acceptable to DAP who accepts that a Chinese cannot (at this moment) be a prime minister. But PAS refuses to concede that its leader cannot be the prime minister as he is a Malay and commands a larger electoral support than Keadilan. Just yesterday it was again reported that a faction within PAS is demanding the PMship be given to PAS. This is unacceptable to DAP and most likely the non-Malay voters who support Keadilan. This last minute power struggle by minions who fail to see the larger picture of changing the nation's political landscape will dent Keadilan's chance. There is no perfect coalition. What concerned Malaysians hope for is for Keadilan leadership to stop fighting for power even before power is won. Be more servant like and work towards the rehabilitation of the nation in whatever role and position given. The body life of Pakatan must be like that of a human body where each organ plays an important role to sustain a healthy body instead of quarreling over rights and might.

Don't allow human sinfulness and greed be the downfall of a fledging coalition we have put so much hope to build a strong 2-party political system. Instead work towards the common and collective good of all Malaysians irrespective of race, background and religion. It can be done through humility and unity in a common goal for a better country for our children and grandchildren.

May God grant wisdom and discernment to those leaders in position to invoke the desired changes for the well being of all citizens, young and old.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Managing Gmail Free Storage

Gmail has become the most popular webmail service provided by Google with more than 425 million active users. It was launched in 2004 as a beta version to invited users. I subscribed to it 2 years later after a friend who was invited to join issued me his invitation and thereafter I invited my friends too. So it was by recommendation that the user base of Gmail grew. The layout was bland and uninteresting but that was the focus, to design a simple layout that make the email more functional than pretty. I had earlier used Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail but decided to go with Gmail as my default address on the Web.

Gmail added incremental storage space as you use the program. I remember the maximum storage allowed for free advertisement based accounts was 7 Gb until over a year ago when Google decided to up it to 10 Gb which is still growing steadily. Today I think users has 10.1 Gb storage space. I'm sure over time Google will up the limit again but their ultimate goal is of course to force the heavy and disorganized users to pay for additional storage once they reach the maximum limit. Those who subscribe to the Gmail for business gets 25 Gb storage which should also see increase over time.

How do we avoid paying Google? Simply by outsmarting them. I know Google gameplan is one day to force every user who are sucked into their free facilities to pay subscriptions to retain using their services, including this blogspot free blogging service. It will be highly unpopular but there will come a time when free services will become either time or capacity based. Until that day come we should learn to manage within the limit of free usage.

Recently I noticed my Gmail storage has exceeded 50% of my free allowance. Nothing to worry really as I still have some 4 Gb free storage left. However Gmail doesn't let users sort their mails. It is basically a search facility so you use keywords to look for past mails. I'm sure majority of users have a habit of not thrashing emails, some may not even know or bother sending obvious spammed mails into the junk box. Without a basic plan to sieve the junks and periodically delete the thrash box the available storage will become quite limited especially if you are heavy in sending and receiving large attachments, including those forwarded mails. I had been going through my mails, all my mails in fact, and make a decision to keep or delete based on their usefulness and revelance. In particular those that have pictures, videos and PowerPoint files attached. I will delete those I send as I still keep these multimedia files in my backup hard disks so it is not necessary to let them bloat my Gmail sent box. I am more careful of my inbox and only delete mails with attachments if these attachments, if useful for archival or referrals, have been downloaded and stored way. Mails that contain sentimental messages and of material importance will stay and trivial correspondence will get deleted. My key question before I hit the thrash button is, will this mail be useful to me after 3-5 years? If the answer is a yes or maybe, they earn an extended life, otherwise they are queued to be deleted.

A few days ago I spent several hours scrolling over nearly 3000 posts and systematically separate those I want to keep and those I won't miss if they are disposed. The effort only end when I hit the delete key on the thrash box which contain over 2 Gb of unwanted mails, mostly with attachments. After that I felt immense relief when I saw my usage fell significantly to just 28%. It was a major exercise than I shan't undertake within the next 2 years or so. In the meantime I don't think I need worry that Google will make me pay for their Gmail service.

Into the Final Lap - My Prediction

The latest prediction is the GE will only be held on mid April and not end March as originally speculated. Whatever. For too many of use the extra 2 weeks wait ain't going to change our mind. A recent online survey by a reputable business magazine found that 85% of the respondents have already decided who to cast their votes for. Therefore both coalitions should be spending the next month wrapping up and persuading the indecisive to make up their mind.

In the past fortnight the BN government, especially the prime minister himself have committed grave boo boo that speaks volume about their desperation to win votes. Most of us Malaysians know of the way the PM cheapened himself and the office of the Prime Minister by asking for support to the Barisan government at the Psy Oppa Gangnam Style show in Penang on Chinese New Year. The first time he asked, the crowd roared NO. Stupidly or hard of hearing, he repeated the question. Again the response was reaffirmingly louder NO. And for the third time, thinking that he actually heard a yes, he roared, Are you ready for BN? The reply sealed the mood. It echoed back a definite NO. Suddenly the PM was lost for the right words to carry on. Struggling to regain his composure he meekly responded, 'So, let us work, let us wait, let us be together in the spirit of 1Malaysia'. I suppose he must have regretted politicizing an entertainment event.

The second round distribution of aid to families earning less than RM3,000 monthly recently was also viewed as a bribery. Even my taxi driver yesterday said plainly, he took it because it was his tax money and will not sell his vote for a measly RM500. Yet the PM hope to fish enough voters who are grateful for the cash to revote him to power. There will be simpletons who think this way but most of the educated voters have decided. And the PM even try to bait some marginal voters by suggesting the third round of aid may, yes may, be given AFTER the election is over and the BN wins AND if there is money to give.

2 days ago an announcement was made that a high speed train service between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will be built by 2020 to enable travelers reach their destination in 90 minutes. Immediately the opposition coalition Pakatan counter-proposed an interstate high speed rail service instead to draw the people closer and reduce road traffic jams. Personally I find this more people centric and purposeful. I am not surprised if the high speed KL-Singapore service never take off.

Most people see a close fight with either Barisan or Pakatan snatching a narrow victory over the other. But many people expects more states to fall to Pakatan citing recapturing of Perak and victory in Perlis and N.Sembilan as strong likelihood. Some states like Pahang, Trengganu, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak will witness fierce battle and of these, surprise outcome like winning Trengganu, Pahang and even Johor was not impossible. Pakatan dare not predict taking Sabah which is embroiled in the influx of illegal immigrants in the 80s and 90s and legalizing their status to win their allegiance to the Barisan government. This is because Sabah has a large rural vote base that tend not to think beyond basic needs and the future of the state and nation. Yet anything can happen since Pakatan lawmakers have made frequent visits to the interior to bring about greater awareness of their rights and dispel their fear of victimization should they vote again Barisan.

The petty quarrels highlighted between Pakatan coalition members may cost them some votes if these voters view such reports as disunity and unreadiness to take over the federal government. Personally I consider them stupid. Differences should not be dirtied in public who may read the signals differently. But I believe most of the voters have decided. Enough is enough. Change promised after the 12GE debacle failed to come about. In fact the Barisan government ruled badly in the past 5 years to deserve a disqualification from being re-elected into power.

My take is that Pakatan will win the next federal election with 12-15 seats majority and control 8 states, pushing Barisan into the Opposition role for the first time since we became independent in 1957.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Take the 13th GE Seriously

Photo Credit: http://www.happiness.sg

This will be my 7th or 8th election I cannot remember and each of them had been a done deal as the Americans would say. There was hardly anything to consider. The Alliance, and later the Barisan Nasional, would always win. In fact there was never any real threat to their position. Reminds me of challengers into the ring when Mohamed Ali was floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. But ultimately even he loses. No one stays winner for life, eventually someone will beat him and take away his title. Just like Nicol David, the all-time squash queen, who recently lost her title at the Cleveland Classic to challenger Raneem El Weleily of Egypt. Only time will tell when she will surrender her throne to another champion. Will it be before 2020 or after? Challengers will vie to capture the covet trophy. So is Malaysian politics.

After March 2008 Najib Razak succeeded Ahmad Badawi as the 6th prime minister and immediately trumpeted his 1Malaysia dream to the nation. It actually became a mockery because the past 5 years failed to see the idea caught on. People actually saw a more fragmented nation and today Najib is leading a fractured Barisan Nasional into battle against the much stronger Pakatan Rakyat for the right to govern Malaysia for the next 5 years tenure. What are the stakes and the risks?

On the surface the government is boasting economic growth that continue to defy regional and international recessionary trends. But the people hardly felt the euphoria. In fact rising cost and fear of insecurity rank highly in their minds that things weren't right. The government and the police should have capped the problem much earlier. Together with other crucial issues like declining standard of education, rising corruption, wastage of public funds, perception of religious intolerance never before felt, made Malaysians wonder if Najib Razak really know how to run the country. Some even rank him rather unkindly as the worst PM.

On the other hand, while many people applauded the strengthening of a strong opposition to Barisan Nasional, the concern that one of its coalition partner, the Islamic party PAS, is harping on islamizing the nation should it come into power at state and national level made even the modern Malays nervous. Why are they trying to take Malaysia, a nation born out of secular constitution, backward? Knowing well that no nations under religious rule ever prosper or gain favor with other nations? PR is also fracturing but assured the electorates it can handle differences better than the BN can wherein it is really UMNO, the dominant Malay party that call the shots and every other coalition partners are subservient and impotent.

Neither are perfect but we cannot look at a perfect party to lead the nation. This is an illusion. What Malaysians ought to consider is who has a manifesto that address current issues of race, religion and economy as well as tackle corruption better than the other coalition. Some voters are doubtful over Anwar Ibrahim's leadership, believing he has a tainted record, that he has extremist views but camouflage his stand to gain support from the non-Malays. Anwar fortunately or unfortunately is the only iconic Malay who can undo UMNO and BN. Take him away PR will fall. Therefore to give PR a chance to win and run the next government is to overlook Anwar for now but hold the entire PR government to its promises over the next 5 years. This is a better course than to doubt Anwar or PR's readiness. At the rate we incur huge debts we cannot afford to have a government that spend recklessly. Malaysia is rich but is poor because unscrupulous politicians have raided her wealth.

So when the parliament is dissolved Malaysians who are eligible to vote MUST take the effort to vote. Any excuse not to vote may cost the loss of important constituencies which may determine whether BN or PR wins at the state and national level. For those who can but did not bother to register, I say this to them. Shame on you for leaving the future of your children into the hands of others to decide. By giving away your right to vote this time you may help swing the outcome of the constituency you live in.

For me I'm clear of where this country must go. I may have another 1 or 2 elections left to exercise my right but my children and grandchildren must be more politically keen and interested. Never assume the person you vote tomorrow will be good also to be voted in the next round.

Friday, February 08, 2013

40 Years Ago Today

Photo credit: http://www.groovycart.co.uk

It was the 6th day of the Lunar New Year in 1973 and I was home in my home town of Sitiawan for a very special occasion. It was a Thursday and with me and my mother were my wife-to-be and her mother. We were going to see the registrar of civil marriage in Lumut, Perak to be married in a simple ceremony (at that time I wasn't a baptized Christian and not worshiping in any church). Our mothers were there to witness this happy occasion. I had returned from my work in Kluang, Johor where I was training as a chemist with Revertex Ltd while I was under the employ of FELDA, the land development agency of the government. And my wife-to-be had returned from Kuala Lumpur where she was working as a nurse. The choice of the date was probably to coincide with the new year when both of us could take leave to be home, my wife hailed from Ipoh, Perak, some 2 hours drive away. It was also probably chosen, I cannot be sure, from my mother-in-law's referencing the Chinese Almanac to choose an auspicious day for an auspicious occasion. After all it would be the first marriage from both families and we wanted to ensure the marriage went off to a good start.

It was a Thursday and a sunny one too. February was typically a dry month and on that day my dad was busy buying in smoked rubber sheets from the smallholders. It was the designated day in the week for this trading so my dad couldn't join in or be my witness at my marriage. In any case someone had to man the shop.

We waited outside the office of the registrar, Mr. Chan Kim Teck (my memory wasn't that good, his name was printed on our marriage certificate). I cannot remember if there were other couples waiting before or after us. The proceeding was smooth. We affixed our signatures after Mr. Chan solemnized our marriage and then by law, Madam Chan Wai Har was officially Mrs. Yew Nieng Choon. There were no shooting stars, no glamorous celebration, just a decision we both took to be committed and faithful to each other until death do us part. We didn't have the time to have our honeymoon immediately but we had it after our traditional wedding dinners in our respective home towns 2 months later.

Well, exactly 40 years have flown and fleeting thoughts went through my mind, from our courtship years to the struggling years of bringing up our children, frequent relocation until my last stop in Nilai, N.Sembilan where I made the momentous decision to be a businessman and started my own company in 1988. Today my wife and I are retired but busy nonetheless. We have 6 wonderful grandchildren from 3 lovely and caring children and their spouses. We have peace and relatively good health. I know I made my right choice 40 years ago. Today is the testimony of it.

Of what use is life if there is no supportive and loving spouse to care for you? Every day must be a Valentine Day. Although no 'I love you's' are muttered daily yet through our daily actions and thoughts love is expressed and affirmed. And God stands between us and within the family to see us through every life's situation.

Today I cannot celebrate our anniversary with our children because we are traveling back to my home town for Chinese New Year. My dad had left us 15 years ago and we're back to visit my mother who will be 88 later this year. I think she'd remember today 40 years ago. In remembrance of this day I invited my mother, my auntie, my sister and my good friend PL and his wife to a simple dinner, to eat, chat and laugh. Life if sustained by these 3 elements is likely to be a blessed one.

Happy 40th anniversary my beloved wife. Thank you for being the ruby in my life. Here's some past pictures to show the progress of our age.













































It has been a great 40 years during which we experienced God's marvelous grace and blessings. From two we added three who married and gave us six grandchildren who are all sunshine of our lives.






Thursday, February 07, 2013

Years May Come

The lunar new year is at our doorstep. As we busy ourselves with gifts to share with relatives and friends as well as red packets for the children and grandchildren, both of which symbolize abundance, prosperity and goodwill which are traditional values to the Chinese, we also allow ourselves time to dwell on those wonderful and nostalgic days as well as the coming future with unknown changes. Who can tell if next year, or the next, continue to bring fulfillment we all hope never diminish but to actually increase? Can we expect our lives to improve as they appear in our dreams? Will we be better as time mellow us? Shall we be a blessing to others or become irritating existence?

Although I enjoyed many of Herman's Hermits songs, this one appropriately makes me think as I stand on this new year threshold between my past and my future. As you listen to the lyrics may it help you as well to cherish all that life has already given, not regrets, and strive to build on the heritage and values you have built. Blessed lunar new year to those who celebrate it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Rasah Kemayan Update

Rasah Kemayan is a fully residential township launched in 1995 but wasn't fully occupied even till today. One of the reasons is many buyers were speculators hoping to make a profit by reselling their properties although some were held for future development such as for retirement living. Another reason was the developer went bust and many property owners lost faith in the future of this project which was at that time the biggest in Seremban. And a very relevant reason why Rasah Kemayan fell out of favor with many original owners who were pilots and other airline employees was that the plan to build a connecting highway through RK to the KL international airport was aborted. Many of them sold off their houses.

But the biggest reason why potential buyers avoided RK I believe is the development of Seremban 2 a few years after that. Seremban 2 is a much bigger project which is self contained with retail businesses, banking, government offices, shopping malls and recreational grounds. Although RK boast a 9 hole golf course and a clubhouse these were unable to attract new buyers to develop bungalow lands around them. That is the scenario until about 2 years ago when real estate developers and potential buyers began to re-look into the potential of RK. While property price soared in Seremban 2, the prices of houses and land in RK were stagnant or discounted. Buyers felt RK offered little security and the infrastructure poorly maintained. About 5 years ago another project even bigger than Seremban 2 was launched in partnership with the state government. The Bandar Sri Sendayan together with Seremban 2 encircled the much smaller Rasah Kemayan and choked the life out of it. While potential buyers look away, developers look positively at its potential. The jewel is of course the golf course. The total size of the golf course and clubhouse occupying 77 acres came under the scrutiny of opportunistic eyes of a listed property developer eyeing to broaden its business base into Seremban soon to become a city.

This news has been publicly announced so can be shared here. Bolton Berhad through its wholly owned subsidiary Bolton Land has entered into a shareholders agreement with Paramount Blossom, the property owner of the golf course and clubhouse, to jointly develop it into a mix development of bungalows, villas, shop office and retail unit through a joint venture company Gaya Arena which will be 75% owned by Bolton Land and 25% owned by Paramount Blossom. Subject to satisfactory due diligence exercise and getting approval for conversion of land use this project will transform the landscape of Rasah Kemayan and surely affect the lifestyle of existing residents in particular those living in RK3 where the development is going to have the largest impact.

In a matter of 5 years or so, during which there will be disruption of peace and tranquility and birds may migrate out of RK. Air pollution is sure to increase and the access roads noisier from trucks, lorries and concrete mixers delivering construction materials and laborers. Peripheral owners will suffer directly. Together with those living farther away they have to bear the inconvenience. In due time the iconic clubhouse will no longer be available to the public and those who enjoy a few rounds of golf weekly with family and friends or practice at the driving range will have to look elsewhere. Golfing is becoming a not profitable business.

Already in RK3 a private development of 28 units of 3-storey semi-detached houses is under way with almost all units sold. The next phase of 29 units nearby the golf course is expected to be launched in a few months. Both are gated communities. Elsewhere vacant lands are being bought and built up and several existing houses renovated. And prices of existing houses and lands in RK have taken a boost. We are no longer the back room boys and girls. By and large buyers are awakened to the idea that RK is a nice place to live in, with or without a golf course, with or without swimming pool, with or without birds. New access roads to the airport has made it attractive again. Welcome to Rasah Kemayan, refreshed for the future.

Re-updated on Aug 24, 2013
I was at the Zenith International School at the RK Clubhouse today and learned that it won't be moving out as expected if the property is to be sold as written above. The school will be buying the clubhouse over. As to the golf course I think it will stay put as there are issues of conversion. This means we shall continue to live idyllically without the disruption of construction activities. Good news for those who want to live in RK especially RK3 where bungalow lots are still available for buidling their dream houses.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Birth Pang of a School Reunion

When you become aware that a great event is about to take place you start planning for its arrival, like for the birth of a baby. Yet this birth pang feeling of mine isn't about a birth but a re-gathering of people who shared the same classrooms, playgrounds, teachers, library, chapel, assembly halls and tuck shops when life was carefree and youthfulness was taken for granted. 48 years on many of our hearts pined for a homeward bound spirit to exodus from where we are now dispersed to where we waved goodbye when we left our beloved Alma Mater, the Anglo-Chinese Secondary School of Sitiawan, Perak in December 1965 to pursue our own further education and career and set up families.

So many years has flown, those years we cannot relive but there to be shared over a glass of coffee and some biscuits or familiar local delicacies. How have you been? Are you a grand parent now? How many? Are you retired? How do you spend your days? How is your health? These and many more questions will float out as we try to fill in each others blank spaces.

The urgency of a reunion started when some of us discovered how useful emails are. From November 2010 more and more classmates of mine started enjoying online friendship as well as small reunions when a few find the time to meet. But the biggie, like a tsunami, looms ahead. Last year, in January 2012, I mooted the idea of our 50th anniversary reunion in Sitiawan and immediately it became an infection. The response was an overwhelming YES, I'll attend, count me in. But it was still far away. Last month when a classmate Aaron wrote about his desire to come back for this grand event, even if he has to 'crawl', he wrote, he'll make it. With this trigger and the reunion some 30 months away, a small group agreed to start searching for missing classmates and year mates and notify them of this upcoming gathering. We were so exuberant and excited and ideas just ooze. At the rate we share our thoughts we can even organize the reunion in 2 months. Nothing can hold us back. We hope to get at least half of the year mates to come, if we can locate them all. The 2015 Golden Jubilee Reunion of the ACS Sitiawan 1965 Year Mates is on the way. We are looking at June-July 2015 as the moment when many will ask one another, sorry I cannot place your face, who are you? And then laughter will break free, and there'll be hugs and rebonding of old friendship buried over the 50 years of absence.

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