Thursday, April 30, 2009


It is a kind of disease, I tell you!

We were given several months to do a simple 5-minute task of filing the income tax returns. HASIL also gave us a few methods to do the filing. Some people are still doing it through the conventional way—by posting the completed forms to HASIL. Some are doing it slightly faster by submitting the forms in person at the HASIL branches all over the country. But many people are doing it electronically by means of e-filing.

During the days running up to the deadline—today—HASIL also stationed their staff at high-pedestrian areas like shopping malls and post office etc. Apart from that, they also extended their working hours up to 10pm every night, including Saturdays and Sundays.

5 minutes! That's all the time's required to file the income tax returns. But, no—we waited till the very last minute. We just had to delay until the very day beyond which we will be subject to late penalty.

Mia and I arrived at HASIL at almost 11:00 am today. And the place was crowded with fellow procrastinators. It took us no less than 15 minutes to fight for a parking, and then had to walk a distance to HASIL. People were queuing—long, long queues—from the upper floor, on the staircase, and right down to the ground floor. The building was packed to its capacity. It was like a war zone!

After queuing for about half an hour, we finally got our forsaken number. And that number was for the purpose of getting into the queue to do the e-filing on the computers in that branch. Of course on an ordinary day, it's possible to do the e-filing thing from the comforts of our home. But since today's the last day, it's impossible to log on to the HASIL website—we simply had to do the e-filing at HASIL itself.

And so, after waiting for 124 numbers in the queue, it was finally our turn. I took about 5 minutes to complete mine, and Mia took more or less the same amount of time. Unfortunately, although my company has been deducting a portion of my monthly wages for income tax, I still fell short by a couple of hundred bucks, and I had to make full payment within today itself. It was the same story with Mia.

Then we went downstairs to get into yet another queue to get our number—this time the queue was for actually paying the tax. When we got the number, we had to wait 183 numbers before it was our turn. Finally, we were able to make the payments at around 2:30pm—a total of about 3.5 hours as opposed to the 5 minutes if we had just done it a week ago. Hard to believe that I survived it all.

It seems that Mia is very determined to do this whole e-filing thing from home next year, a few months before the deadline. But I have the funny feeling that she will soon forget all about it the next time we need to file our tax returns again.

I swear, procrastination is truly a disease!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tembak Series 1—09 May 2009

It's been a while since the last time I posted anything about treasure hunts. Last year I went to KL quite frequently for treasure hunts. But this year I've been quite busy with work and Rotary activities; and although hunts are usually held during the weekends, I have missed out on some interesting ones.

Although I've only known treasure hunt for a little over 3 years now, I have come to a point of saturation somehow. From the several hunts that I've joined in west Malaysia last year, I noticed that most of them were generally the same in terms of ideas.

To back track a bit, we had some interesting discussions in the Riddle Raiders Blog; and because of those discussions, I felt that there was a sudden increase in the standard of hunt questions. Since then many new ideas have been introduced into the sport. And there is also some sort of competition amongst the many Clerks-of-Course (CoCs) to improve in terms of accuracy in their questions. But in the end, I felt we have more or less come to a standstill in terms of new ideas to keep the sport exciting.

A well-known CoC did not set any hunt for about 2 years, and suddenly when he decided to make a comeback, his questions which used to be considered tough, turned out to be just like any other ordinary hunts, thus indicating a marked increase in overall hunt standard.

Most of the ideas have been used over and over again, and the master hunters find little challenge in the sport. Therefore, to counter this worrying trend, many CoCs have come up with something quite outrageous—they conjure up questions which are very far-fetched, those which require extreme stretch of the mind.

Clues were set in the order of "take a break" which hunters had to solve several layers deep, sifting through many, many possibilities to arrive at a very specific instruction to take away the letters T, I, M and E from a word. The words "stand up" had to be solved by sifting through many, many possibilities to arrive at the instruction to remove the letters L, A and P from a word. Starting from "stand up", the hunter had to think of, perhaps, "on your feet", "balance", "extend legs", "no rest", and many, many other possibilities associated with standing up, to arrive at the specific "no lap". And one would have to almost know the answer to actually guess that "no lap" was the specific one that the CoC had intended for his solution. Yet that's not the end of the riddle; that "no lap" in itself was to be taken as yet another cryptic clue of which hunters were required to remove the letters L, A and P from a word on account of "no". I might be willing to accept this kind of questions if the scope of search is narrower.

The net result is that as we continue to "improve" on the difficulty level, the sport of treasure hunt becomes increasingly beyond the reach of the new hunters. Today, treasure hunts are not really about riddles and cryptic clueing. No—most of them are about searching for a needle in a haystack. To be fair, however, not all of the questions are about finding a needle in a haystack, but these are the ones which matter—they are generally the ones which will determine the winners of the hunts.

When I first started clerking hunts, I sought out to maintain the element of fun—that an average hunter had a fair shot at solving the clues. I tried to keep my questions "entertaining" and with a bit of twist to deceive the hunters, but not to the extent of "take a break" and "no lap". That said, however, during my first official hunt, i.e. the Sutera Harbour-Angkatan Hebat Treasure Hunt, I was unable to judge the standard of the hunters. It turned out that that hunt was probably up to the standard of an average KL hunt, but too tough for our local hunters. I have since learned quite a lot, and have been able to adjust the difficulty level accordingly.

My idea of a good hunt question is not about stretching the mind so far to the extent of teetering into the realm of impossibility. The most beautiful questions are those which are simple and achieveable by almost everyone, and yet at the end of the hunt, they remain unsolved. That is the kind of question which would make my day as the CoC. It's the question which would make the hunters kick themselves in their butts when I reveal the answer!

Consider this question which was shared in A Hunter's Tale (of which I borrowed in our recent annual dinner, with some modifications):

Q) Top is on the head

A) Lima Sen

There's no need to stretch the mind so far, sifting through so many possibilities. A general knowledge which even a kid might know!

I once created a treasure clue which caught many strong hunters by surprise. Something simple yet no team solved the riddle—or rather, no team solved it accurately.

There are times when I myself come up with questions requiring several levels of solving, but when there are alternative possibilities, I always try to limit the scope of search. An average hunter with basic cryptic knowledge who analyses my questions methodically is bound to solve them. But of course there are other elements in the hunt such as time pressure, observation skills etc.

I think we need to inject some new ideas into the sport of treasure hunting; not mere levels upon levels of impossibility. This is where we need the CoCs to actually think of something fresh and entertaining instead of taking the easy way out by "hiding" the answer in several layers of thick conrete slabs.

I bring all this up because we're having a hunt—Tembak Series 1—next Saturday by Team Main Tembak. I met Alvin, the CoC for this hunt, recently over lunch and we spoke in general about hunt questions. Unfortunately, I was unable to get even a single question for next Saturday. Alvin agreed that the good questions are those which are simple and solvable even by the new hunters.

KK hunters don't have many hunts organised, and we're all so excited that Alvin is organising this hunt (without making any profit out of it). Over the last couple of years, apart from the KK City Hunts, I was practically the only one clerking the local hunts. So everyone welcomes a different CoC for a change and looking forward to a good hunt.

Keeping my fingers crossed...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Drying Up To 2035

In the front page of The Borneo Post today was an article of the current heat wave in Sabah. The weather has been extraordinarily hot over the last couple of days. Even with the air-conditioner running in the office, I've been sweating profusely, though I'm not sweating my tits off yet at this stage.

Yesterday, during the weekly Rotarian meeting, Rtn Toshinori gave an interesting talk about his work in Mongolia. Toshi is an Environment Conservation Specialist who spends a lot of his time in the jungles of Sabah, but also in Mongolia.

The above is a map showing the location of Mongolia. Note the neighbouring China, Kazahstan and Russia. In the middle is the mountain range which used to contain many glaciers. These glaciers are the main source of water for this reqion.

A beautiful shot of the Bolonin Glacier in Altai Mountain Range at an estimated depth of 200 metres in 2002, but has been decreasing rapidly to an estimated 50 metres in 2007. Because of global warming, a difference of only 1.5 degrees centigrade over the recent years, it has been estimated that there will be no more glaciers in this region by the year 2035. That is not exactly a very long time from now. Essentially, what it means is that by the year 2035, an approximate 1 billion people in this region will have problem with water for their livelihood.

These are some of the people who inhabit the area—very simple folks who have continued the traditional way of life, hunting animals with their well-trained Golden Eagles. Living in an environment of frequent below-freezing point, they welcome the increasing temperature, not knowing that the entire area will be dry in less than 30 years' time.

The Ongii River, flowing from the Hangai Range to the Gobi Desert which was frequently flooded during the springs and summers up till 1995. It was the source of water for the people and wildlife.

Ongii River in 2000. No more water for the people and wildlife due to uncontrolled gold-mining and climate change. Below are some of the attempts to squeeze some water out of the clouds in the sky above the Gobi Desert.

Think about it—the year 2035. We probably won't have to worry too much about the war against Skynet, the super computer. The water problem is good enough to wipe out 1 billion people. Toshi opines that we have not done enough to reverse the trend; and all the glaciers will melt and dry out in the end.

Scary, huh?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pride & Prejudice

I was enjoying my fried mee-hoon in E-Siong Restaurant in Lintas Plaza around mid-morning yesterday when I received a text message from Ah Moon. She drew my attention to an article on page 9 of The Daily Express. There was The Daily Express in E-Siong, and I flipped through the pages to find the article about women cab drivers in KK. And there she was—a picture of my sister-in-law, Norshidah Mustafa. She's the wife of my brother, Dennis.

Shidah had recently started working as a cab driver. According to the article, she's one of the only 10 women cab drivers in KK. To be honest, I didn't know about all this until just a few days ago when I was having lunch with Dennis.

Dennis has 2 sons—Mohd Aqil, 14, and Mohd Arif, 8. He used to be the sole bread winner for the household. Shidah took up sewing some time ago and did what she could from home to supplement the household income. There isn't much she can expect from her form 3 cert, you see.

But recently, she decided to do something more adventurous by becoming a cab driver. And after about 2 weeks doing that, she found that the income is not bad at all—in fact much better than the sewing thing!

Now on the other side of the world—in Vancouver, Canada—mom got to hear about this cab thing. If there is anything that I can't stand about mom, it is her tendency to look down on poor people—especially a lowly-educated Muslim like Shidah. She doesn't admit it, of course, but no matter how hard she tries to hide her feelings, they're just too plain to see—they're written all over her face. She has this kind of "pride" of being a Chinese and although she does not actually say it, I can see that she considers the Chinese as a superior race against the Malays. And because of that, there has always been a kind of prejudice against the Malays, especially if they are poor and uneducated.

Well, mom is not impressed with Shidah working as a cab driver, and she tries to use everything in her power to stop this cab thing. Phone calls upon phone calls to Dennis and Shidah to "advise" them against the "degrading" job. But Dennis and Shidah are adamant. And why shouldn't they—the money is good, what? So according to Dennis, mom said she will call me in the hope that I will be able to talk some sense into Dennis and Shidah.

Being the eldest son, my younger siblings usually follow my advice almost without question. However, I never once abused that respect they have for me. My principle has always been the same: I want them to respect me; so I shall behave respectably. Whatever I do, I try my best to show a good example to my siblings. It is so very easy to forget where one came from, you see. In Malay, we say: lupa daratan.

So as I said, mommy will soon call koko King Kong to deal with this "problem". But unfortunately for mom, I don't really fancy the idea of dictating to my 41-year old brother how he should lead his life. Neither am I gonna advise Shidah what she should or shouldn't do. Maybe if they're doing something illegal, I might think differently.

I am proud of my sister-in-law for trying her best to help her husband to support the family. Mom should remember that if her son is a very successful man, then there is no need for his wife to go to that extent to share the burden of supporting the family. There is absolutely nothing wrong with driving a cab. One of these days, if I am fated to lose my job and the only available job is being a cab driver, I would do it in a heartbeat! And to hell with what mom thinks about me. There is no point to have such a high pride, really, if one is unable to put three square meals on the table. Sometimes reality hurts—that's life.

Having said all those, however, I am concerned if Shidah is being smart about this cab thing. Being a woman, I can only imagine some dangers just waiting to happen. There is no way to know what kind of people—especially male passengers—what they have on their minds when they see a lady cab driver.

But I wish all the best to Dennis and his family.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Never For Love?

Forwarded to my emailbox recently. Click on the picture to read the article.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Survival Instinct

Humans and animals are born with the survival instinct. They have some sort of pre-programmed mechanism in the brain to do whatever it takes to preserve life. Of course they are some people who'd commit suicide, but the vast majority of the human race will try to remain alive no matter what.

Take the playboy for example. He abuses his body—overeats, smokes heavily, hardly any physical exercise; and if he can help it, he'd not take his medications too. When we children try to advise him to go easy on his food intake, or stop smoking, or take his medications, his response has always been the same: "I'm already in my mid-sixties—if I can't do the things that I enjoy doing, there is no point for me to continue living; I don't mind dying!"

And so he'd continue to overeat, including all the high-cholesterol foods even though that's partly what caused him to suffer 2 heart attacks before. The overeating does not help with his diabetes situation too. And of course he smokes heavily whenever he's out of the house (we merely pretend not to know that he smokes).

Yet, on both occasions when he suffered the heart attacks, he said he wasn't ready to die—that he wanted very much to continue living. He said there're many things he set out to do which still remained undone. Suddenly, all those talks that he'd rather die were gone.

Always, it's so easy to say that you'd rather die, yet when you're really at death's door, you suddenly realise that you don't want to die just yet. Well, he fought really hard to remain alive. And now, after his successful heart surgery, he's back to abusing his body again. And again he says the same thing whenever we try to advise him about his unhealthy lifestyle—that he doesn't mind dying.

The survival instinct is a very powerful inbuilt programme in the brain.

Not too long ago, I was having a yam-cha with Eric one afternoon. And we were having some empty talks. This topic, that topic—and then we eventually talked about euthanasia. Both of us agreed that if we ended up being a vegatable in a coma with no hope of being cured, and we're living on life-supporting machines, we would prefer someone to pull off the plug and let nature take its course.

My reasons for the above are quite similar to Eric's. If there is no more hope for a cure, is there any point to remain alive in that condition? And it becomes quite a tricky question whether being in a coma hooked onto life-supporting machines can really be considered as "still alive"? We may be still "alive" in the technical sense, i.e. heart still pumping and brain still in good order; but in the practical sense the rest of the body is no longer "alive".

Apart from that, strictly from the medical point of view, it gives rise to ethical questions—whether is it ethical to continue occupying the life-supporting machines when there is only a very remote chance of getting a cure, yet depriving other patients who might have a better shot at living, provided that they get to use those machines? The point is that by occupying the bed and machines on a hopeless case will surely deprive other people with a more promising chance of survival.

But now we come to a very significant question: By requesting to remove the life-supporting machines (say before going into a coma), does that amount to committing suicide? And here things can become very complicated. Most religions consider suicide as a big sin. Apart from that, many countries have laws against euthanasia. There have been cases where the sick person had to go to court to seek the permission to die. Furthermore, even if it is allowed, would it mean that the person who actually pulls the plug is committing a murder?

And finally, what if before the health deteriorates we can request for painless death, but when we become paralysed (but still conscious and no longer able to communicate) suddenly the survival instinct kicks in? Might we change our mind but by then unable to reverse the request to die?

A lot of questions, yet when we were happily talking in the coffeeshop, it seemed such an easy decision to make.

I can't even remember who brought up this topic anyway. I must ask Eric who did. If it's him, I will want to kick his ass for bringing up a topic that can never have clear-cut answers!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Body Accessories

I was out to town last Saturday and saw quite a number of tourists in a shopping mall. Amongst them, I spotted a number of young men with body piercings. This thing about body piercing is making inroads into the younger generation, but from my general observation, it is not very serious yet at this stage. Perhaps it will become increasingly popular in time to come.

Last year, I posted an article about tattoos in KK, and in that article I made a quick mention about body piercing. In the good old days, "body accessories" used to refer to necklaces, bangles, rings and other jewellery which were not actually embedded into the flesh. Well, OK, except for the earrings, fo course. Body piercing takes the concept of "accessories" a step further—small pieces of decorative items are pierced into the flesh and remain there permanently; or even if not permanently, usually at least longer than the former kind of accessories.

I'm sure there must be some valid reasons why some people choose to want these items embedded into their flesh, but as far as I am concerned, beauty is certainly not one of them. However, those young men at the shopping mall made heads turn! My attention was focused on a lad who looked like he's trying to make a fashion statement. He had some earrings on both ears; another ring on his nose; and another one pierced through his eye-brows region. Even his girl friend wasn't that "attractive"—she merely had one earring each on both ears and one small item pierced through her navel. Their group was quite a spectacle!

I don't know where's their next destination, but perhaps they should avoid going to Port Klang for the moment, since the police are on the look-out for men with earrings on both ears.

I think it's just a matter of time that our young people will mimic this body piercing thing, but I hope my JJ will escape such madness. In KK, I have come across quite a number of piercings on the nose; and at least 3 women with something pierced through their tongues. I don't know how's the situation in the bigger cities like KL.

I'd really like to hear it from those of you who have something pierced into your flesh. Could you please enlighten me what exactly are they for? Is it beauty? Craving for the attention? Wanting to make a fashion statement? Or just wanting to be "different"?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dying To Become Rich

Recently, I received a call from my insurance agent. She said she had a very attractive investment plan to offer me. That, of course, did not surprise me—insurance agents always have "attractive plans" to sell. But keeping an open mind, I told her to come round the office one afternoon to show her "attractive plan" to me.

Now, as a general rule, I don't normally agree to even see the "plan" if I don't have at least a 50% chance of buying it in the end. I don't want to waste both our time, you see. But if there is a good chance that I might consider buying it, then I will let the agent do the rest to convince me of her product.

Well, she turned up with the investment plan. In fact, as far as I am concerned, it's an ordinary retirement plan with a guaranteed decent returns. And of course there is the life insurance element in it too. I thought it's a good product, and perhaps it's also a good way to save my money. So it was a fruitful visit for her—I signed up and wrote out the cheque there and then.

Then came the part where I had to fill up the forms. Thankfully, however, she helped me to fill up most of it and merely asked me to sign at several pages on those forms.

We came to the part where I had to name my beneficiaries; she looked up to me and said, "Wife and daughter, of course?", and I said, "Yeah, I suppose that's expected, isn't it?"

Before this, I bought 2 more policies from her and in both cases I put my wife and daughter as my beneficiaries. I did not really think that I had to think about that, you see.

According to the insurance agent, based on her long experience, when men buy life insurance policies, they will almost automatically put the spouses and children as their beneficiaries; but when women buy insurance, about 90% of them will put their parents, siblings or children as the beneficiaries—and hardly ever the husbands.

I did not find that information very surprising. My own wife has a few insurance policies herself and the beneficiaries are her 70-year old mother and 45-year old sister. If I am not wrong, she put JJ's name for the latest insurance policy she just took up a few months ago. Quite honestly, I am not bothered at all that I am not the beneficiary of her insurance policies. But I'd really like to understand why.

Being the curious animal that I am, I asked the agent if she's ever tried to find out from her women clients why. Well, according to her, women are afraid that when they die prematurely, their husbands can claim the insurance money and remarry again.

See, that's the thing about life insurances—you become rich when you die. Or rather your beneficiaries become rich when you die. I really fail to see it from the women's point of view. So what if their husbands claim the insurance money and remarry again? Isn't it also possible that they, too, may want to remarry again when their husbands die?

If I die sooner than my wife, I really hope that she can find another man somehow to start a new life. And hopefully she can use whatever money she can claim from my insurers to make a good start. It would be really a shame if she "dies" together with me, and my soul will surely not rest in peace.

It is sad that my wife and the vast majority of the famale species don't think the same way as I do...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Craving For Recognition That Is Never Forthcoming

Before JJ was born, I had a phobia of parenthood. I have always been a "born-worryer". I worried that I wouldn't be good enough as a daddy; I worried that I'd lose my job and had nothing to provide for my child. In fact, I worried about so many other things. When I look back at myself during those years before JJ came along, I see a silly man worrying about petty things which had a remote chance of happening, but missing the greater joy of parenthood.

Then JJ came along. I can still remember the day she was born. I was there to witness the occasion. On grounds of decency, I opted to wait outside the delivery room, but Mia wanted me to stay and hold her hand. And so I saw it all—and, no, I didn't faint!

The earlier days were perhaps the most trying, because when JJ cried at night we had to guess what's going on. Was she in pain? Was she experiencing some sort of discomfort? It was very frustrating that she couldn't communicate we us other than merely crying. And being first-timer parents, Mia and I went through a fair amount of scary moments.

Eventually JJ started to talk, and I almost fainted one day when she uttered the word "daddy". Of the thousands of words in the English language, "daddy" was the first one that came from her. From then on, whenever she learned new things, Mia and I would be amazed and overjoyed without fail. And that is still the case up to now.

Soon JJ started going to the nursery school. Sometimes she'd come home with stuffs made of cardboard, glue and crayons. We've had Happy Mother's Day and Happy Father's Day cards with crude handwritings on them. But we made sure that we show our appreciations. Saying "thank you" or "daddy/mommy loves you" is so easy and won't cost a thing. Yet the impact on the kid is significant. I should know, because when I was a young boy, I craved for recognition from my daddy, but never got any. I will always make it a point to give the recognition that JJ deserves.

I cast my mind back to my childhood days; I had a different treatment from my daddy. He was such a difficult man to please, and he saw to it that no recognition would be given to his children no matter what. Whenever we did good in school or in anything at all, we did not get even a "well done" or "good job" from him. There must be something wrong with whatever we did—we could never be good enough. He did not see that we wanted so much for him to be proud of us kids.

And that hasn't changed very much up to now. When his children buy him a cake on his birthday, it's OK if he does not say "thank you" for it. We have all passed the stage of craving for his recognition. But he'd find fault with the cake instead. It's not tasty; it's not the type he likes. All the negative words and hardly ever a simple "thank you".

So to all you parents out there, please be generous with your praises for your children. When they do good, it's OK to acknowledge that they have done well, and that you're proud of them. Trust me, such acknowledgement means a lot to your children. Just knowing that their parents are proud of them can really make their day. Don't make them crave for the recognition that is never forthcoming.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Planning For A New Life

“However, I am getting older and also have given birth. Now, I can only charge RM50,” she said, adding that her customers were aged between 13 and 70. [The Star]

When I was 13 years old, I never had RM50 in my pocket at any one time. But of course in those good old days, probably RM25 was the equivalent of today's RM50. That's still a lot of money to me at that age. And to think of giving away that kind of money for the purpose of sex—truly unimaginable!

I suppose the kids these days grow up very quickly. But just imagine, paying for sex at the age of 13! Now if it's the other way round, it's possible that the men can get into big time trouble under statutory rape. I wonder if this canteen helper can also be charged for statutory rape, because she's having sex with an underaged kid?

Let's do a bit of calculation.

I have no idea how many customers she can get per night, but let me just take a conservative estimate—let's adopt an average of 2 customers per night give an take. Of course there will be some days of the month which will not be available for business, but let's adopt the 2-customer per night average anyway. And then let's assume that she works all year round, i.e. she does not fall sick.


2 x RM50 x 365 days x 3 (years) = RM109,500

But then out of that amount, some will be spent to support her husband, kid and old folks. Let's say RM500 per month (still very conservative estimate)? Therefore RM18,000 for 3 years. Thus if everything goes perfectly as planned, she'd be able to save about RM91,500 in 3 years' time.

I wonder what kind of "new life" she can expect from that amount in Malaysia—and how long that "new life" can last...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Yesterday morning, a forwarded email arrived in my emailbox. It came from a close friend. Below is an extract of the email:

"Subject: Recent miracle in Egypt!

Broadcasted in CBS...

A Muslim man in Egypt killed his wife because she was reading the Bible and then buried her with their infant baby and an 8-year old daughter.The girls were buried alive!

He then reported to the police that an uncle killed the kids. 15 days later, another family member died. When they went to bury him, they found the 2 little girls under the sand - ALIVE!

The country is outraged over the incident, and the man will be executed at the end of July.

The older girl was asked how she had survived and she says:- 'A man wearing shiny white clothes, with bleeding wounds in his hands, came every day to feed us. He woke up my mom so she could nurse my sister,'she said. She was interviewed on Egyptian national TV, by a veiled Muslim woman news anchor. She said on public TV, 'This was none other than Jesus, because nobody else does things like this!

'Muslims believe Isa (Jesus) would do this, but the wounds mean He really was crucified, and it's clear also that He is alive! But, it's also clear that the child could not make up a story like this, and there is no way these children could have survived without a true miracle. Muslim leaders are going to have a hard time to figure out what to do with this, and the popularity of the Passion movie doesn't help! With Egypt at the centre of the media and education in the Middle East, you can be sure this story will spread. Christ is still controlling and turning the world. Please let this story be shared.

The Lord says, 'I will bless the person who puts his trust in me. (Jeremiah 17)

Please forward to all on your list and God will reward you abundantly.. ..spread the Good News!"

A very interesting email, and I have some comments on it. But I will only post further later outside office hours. In the mean time, I'll let you dwell on this story for a bit.



Now where was I? Ah! yes, on the miracle!

The first thing, of course, is that this story is a bunch of craps. If Jesus wanted to prove his existence to the world, he'd probably do something more profound—perhaps saving some of those kids in Gaza is a good start.

I have posted something about chain mails not too long ago. Some people are just not quite right up there. Maybe it has a lot to do with craving for attention. Or some people get their kicks by spreading falsehood or scaring others. I dare say it's some kind of mental disorder, although I must hasten to qualify that I am not professionally trained to make such an assessment. Therefore, this is just my personal opinion.

The "miracle", as far as this particular email is concerned, is that so many people actually believe the story! Looking at the history of email addresses, forwarded from one to another, is just amazing.

Just looking at the email from an unbiased point of view, one is quickly able to tell that it's plain rubbish.

"Broadcasted in CBS"

If there is any truth in this story at all, it would have been broadcasted all over the world by now, not just CBS.

No names have been provided, neither the man, nor his wife nor his children—zilch! We are therefore unable to trace the story. No specific location was given. "Egypt" is an extremely large area. No dates were given so we are unable to trace when exactly did this event occur.

But the most compelling "evidence" that this was a hoax was that appeal:

"Please let this story be shared.

The Lord says, 'I will bless the person who puts his trust in me.(Jeremiah 17)

Please forward to all on your list and God will reward you abundantly.. ..spread the Good News!"

Always remember, folks, whenever you receive forwarded emails appealing you to forward to others, chances are you are being taken for a ride. These are sickos out there trying very hard to make fools out of you, I don't know why. Like I said, I strongly suspect it's some kind of mental disorder. So please resist to automatically forward these kind of rubbish the next time they arrive in your emailbox. Be curious and raise some common sense questions; and then you will know that someone is making fools out of you!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bakat Interact 2009

I haven't been updating this blog for a few days now. Apart from work, playing some online chess, engaging in some interesting forum in Hope's blog, Rotary meetings, I have been very, very busy leading up to the Bakat Interact 2009 which was held this afternoon at the Auditorium Tun Raffae, Yayasan Sabah.

As the New Generation Director 2008-2009, I was responsible to organise this year's Bakat. What may appear to be a very simple task, actually it is not so easy to organise this event. Earlier this week, I was somewhat getting worried about the poor ticket sales. The Auditorium can accommodate approximately 1,300 people, yet we were only able to sell about 700 tickets. However, a few more days of hardwork together with the Interactors, we were able to finish the entire 1,300 tickets by the time the show started.

The Bakat Interact is an annual project by the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu (RCKK). It is essentially something of a musical contest amongst the five Interact Clubs sponsored by the RCKK, i.e. SM La Salle, SM St Francis Convent, Maktab Sabah, SM All Saints and SM Lok Yuk. However, this year, we have also invited an additional competition from Maktab Nasional.

From left: Rtn Dr Ravi Mandalam, DG Edward S. Burongoh, President Warrence Chan

The Guest of Honour was President Warrence Chan, but we were lucky that DG Edward Sung Burongoh was able to spare some time from his busy schedule to grace the occasion. Some other Rotarians and their spouses also came to support the event.

Fellow Rotarians (from left) Rtn Frankie Fu, Rtn Chiang Wei Chia, PP Datuk Vincent Pung, Rtn Dr Ravi.

Wild cheers

Although the event was scheduled to start at 12:30pm, it only started at 1:00pm. When the MCs announced the start of the show, the kids went wild—it's a wonder the ceiling did not cave in. I was still running errands and missed most of the earlier part of the show. During the break I was able to have a short chat with the judges who lamented that it's so difficult to judge the singing, as the voices of the singers were overwhelmed by the cheers of the hysterical audience. I think by tomorrow many students would seek medical help for sore throat.

Costume dance by SM Lok Yuk

Of course, we had plenty of shouting on stage which they called singing; and those jerky movements which they called dancing. However, I kinda like the above performance by SM Lok Yuk which lasted about 2 minutes. After that short-lived pleasant performance, they sort of took off those outfits, and underneath they had sexy dancing costumes. Then the boys emerged from the curtains and did that thing they called dancing.

Well, I wouldn't actually say that I had fun watching these modern-day entertainments, but it was obvious that the kids had a wonderful afternoon at the Bakat Interact 2009. President Warrence Chan and DG Edward Sung Burongoh gave away the prizes. Maktab Sabah emerged Champion, whereas SM All Saints won the Best Showmanship prize.

Champion, Maktab Sabah

Best Showmanship, SM All Saints

I guess I am just too old-fashioned, but I thought the singers from SM St Francis Convent were the outright winners. They sang wonderfully, and if I were to judge the show, I would have decided for them in a heartbeat.

So now it's time to prepare for the next major project, the I.U. Bazaar. That will be in June. I hope it's gonna be equally successful. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Role Model

It's been a while since the last time I shared my childhood stories. I happened to go blog-hopping recently and a particular post in Erna's blog caught my attention. Since then, I've been day-dreaming that my JJ will grow up some day looking up to me as her role model, much the same way Erna looks up to her dad.

I've been meaning to write a bit about my own role model too, but could not really find the right time and mood to do so—until now.

Well, this lately I've been thinking a lot about my dad. I'm trying to recall all the good things he has done as a daddy. And then I was horrified to find very few that I can remember. The human brain is a very strange recording instrument. At times, I find it so hard to remember some events which took place only a couple of weeks or months ago. Yet I can still remember quite a lot of my childhood experiences very clearly as if they had just happened recently.

When I was very young, I used to look up to my dad as a great man. He was to me everything I wanted to be. In retrospect, I honestly don't know why I felt that way. Perhaps it was merely some sort of instinct—that children will automatically take their parents as their role models. But as I said, the more I try to think back about my childhood days, the more I find very little to justify my admiration for my dad. If anything, I can remember many, many occasions when I asked myself, "Why isn't my dad like other daddies?"

I think I was about 14 years old (form 2) when I joined some friends on a camping trip during a school break organised by the Boys Scouts. It wasn't really an advanturous trip into the deep jungle; rather it was merely a 3-day camp at a school compound in Likas. Dad had dropped me off at the camp and promised to fetch me in three days' time.

Well, we had lots of fun over those three days, playing lots of games, learning some outdoor stuff, singing etc. By the third day, I was so tired and couldn't wait to get home. But after waiting for about 2 hours, dad still did not show up. I did not have any money on me, so I started walking home with my heavy backpack. Back then I was living in Kobusak. The distance from St Agnes in Likas to Kobusak must have been more than 15km. It was around 6pm when I started my walk, and I had to stop several times to rest along the way. In the end I reached home at around 9pm. It was a very exhausting walk. I think it wouldn't have been very tough if it's not for the heavy backpack.

I can remember clearly now—I've just passed the Queen Elezabeth's Hospital and heading towards Taman Fortuna when I started crying because of the exhaustion, thirst, hunger, fear and anger. Well, I cried all the way home that day.

When I reached home, dad was there watching tv with the rest of the family. He had forgotten all about his promise to come and fetch me in Likas. But he said it's good that I had the training to become a strong and brave man.

I think it's moments like those that resulted in the gradual loss of respect and love for my dad. Over the years there were many other similar stories.

I'm sure if only you knew what I've been through, you'd understand why my dad is no longer my role model today.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Collector's Items

Even more weirdos—and this time it's much closer to home. I grew up in the Nosoob and Kobusak neighbourhood. And then I spent some more years living in Koidupan. I can still remember vast tracts of land for paddy cultivation. And they used to employ the karabau to plough the lands. But now one can hardly see anymore lands for paddy fields in the area. Most of them have been developed with housing estates; shophouses and apartments.

Very few of the modern Kadazans are willing to work in a paddy field. In fact, many Kadazans can't even remember how to do it right! I once asked my step-mother how many sacks of paddy one can yield, on average, from an acre of paddy field, and she couldn't answer the question.

As the years gone by, the people have also changed. They are getting more sophisticated these days. Life is so much more complicated than those good old days.

Crime has also come a long way. Nowadays, it's no longer fun and challenging to steal money and jewelleries. No—now we want to steal panties—women's used panties. And it's not just crawling in the dark at night, grabbing panties hung on clothes lines. There is no fun in that. We want to disguise ourselves as businessmen, distributing flyers and business cards in order to gain access into the victims' premises. It's hard to imagine how, then, was it possible to steal the panties, but by adopting such modus operandi this guy managed to steal up to over 70 panties before the long arms of the law caught up with him!

Weird items for collection... but, people, y'know. He kept some of his prized collections in his car; and the rest under some staircase. Imagine if he was not caught, and he was able to steal some more panties. Storage would have been quite a problem for the psycho, huh?

Now I have exhausted my imagination, trying to fathom the mind of the so-called panty-raider. Perhaps some of you would care to enlighten me on what he'd do with his collections?

Killing The Golden-Egg-Laying Goose

Well, OK, she was not a goose; and no, neither did she lay golden eggs. But she was the breadwinner for 2 young sons and a useless bum who fathered her children.

Sometimes life is so unfair!

The asshole came home drunk in the early afternoon and demanded sex. She refused. He assaulted her and when she fell to the ground and became unconscious, he strangled her using a skipping rope, thus killing her.

But after she's dead he did not forget what he wanted from her in the first place. So he proceeded to have sex with the corpse—with the corpse! And to add to the excitement, even inflicted injuries by biting her. [Bernama]

Weird, weird people!

I am dying to know where exactly did he bite the corpse, and what's the point of it all. I am a student of psychology and I'd really like to understand what's with the biting—biting a corpse, mind!

And by the way, speaking of having sex with a corpse, if any of you ever go for a deer-hunting trip, try—if you can—not to shoot a female deer in heat. Otherwise, your hunting dog may get the wrong idea of the purpose of the hunt.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

What a busy week this has been! Apart from work-related stuff, I've been spending a bit of time on Rotary matters. Amongst others, President Warrence Chan, PP Patrick Chin and I visited Saint Francis Convent and Sabah College to deliver small donations, on behalf of our Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu, meant for needy students.

After we're done with the official handing over of the cheques, photo sessions and other formalities, we had the opportunities to chit-chat with the teachers and principals. We exchanged views on numerous matters relating to the education system in Malaysia, but eventually we came to the inevitable subject of the teaching of maths and science in English.

This thing about the teaching of maths and science in English is not a new debate in Malaysia, and I'd expect it to continue to be an ongoing debate for a long time to come. It's interesting to note that the generation just before mine went through an education system which adopted English as the medium of instruction. When it was my generation, we did it all in Bahasa Malaysia. Then some years ago, we had another modification in the education system where some sort of compromise was introduced—maths and science are now taught in English, whereas the other subjects continue to be taught in Bahasa Malaysia (except of course for the English language itself).

There are many, many arguments for and against the teaching of maths and science in English. One can find plenty of these arguments in recent news articles, blogs and other literatures. So I shall not bore my readers with those views in this post. However, from the many people I've spoken to about this subject, including people in the street, parents, teachers and principals, there is no doubt that the majority still prefer to maintain the medium of instruction for maths and science in English.

Some people have suggested that it's a torture for young children to learn maths and science in English, especially those who're not well versed in the language. I do not agree with this view. And even if it's indeed a torture, sometimes we must endure it for the benefits that we can reap in the future.

My daughter, JJ, has just started primary one in a Chinese school in January this year. Each day she struggles with the many Chinese characters. Both Mia and I can't handle Chinese characters, so JJ has to go for tuition to get extra help. The amount of effort required is amazing, but she copes reasonably well. It's not a stroll in the park, and at times her grades are just hanging by a thread. Yet one way or another she will have to endure it, at least up till primary six.

If we really want our kids to learn maths and science in English, I think they will be able to adjust and eventually adapt to the requirement. It may not be a pleasant ride, of course, but that's entirely a different matter. It is human nature to be doubtful when drifting into unchartered territories. We're more confortable to converse and learn in our own language(s).

Having said that, we've heard that a fair number of kids, especially those from the rural schools, can't cope with the English language, and immediately we ask ourselves—why? Is it right to say that those kids are not as bright when compared to those from the urban areas? As far as I am concerned, unless there is strong evidence to support this claim, I'm inclined to suggest that there is hardly any difference in the mental ability of these kids. Perhaps the kids from the urban areas are better exposed to knowledge—they are very much at home with the TVs, internet connectivity, cellphones etc. But still, as for the learning capacity, if there is any difference at all, then it must be very little.

That's why I think many people are barking up the wrong tree when they claim that rural kids can't cope with English. I suspect a more viable explanation is that the teachers themselves are not well-equipped to teach in English. Therefore, being a parent, one might have to tell his child that the word "leopard", for example, is pronounced lepÉ™d, and not li׃eo pa׃d as what the teacher said how it's supposed to be pronounced.

I personally am in favour of the teaching of maths and science in English because I am convinced of the immense benefits for future applications of the knowledge. But if the Government is really serious about it, then I think they should look into bringing the teachers up to the standard to start with.