Thursday, August 31, 2006

Project Happy Malaysia: My Terengganu Story

With the depressing state of affairs concerning our country published in the mainstream newspapers day in day out (not that I would prefer honey-glazed stories painting a beautiful but fake picture instead), one would think Malaysia really is the most horrible place on earth to live in. So, when I read this blog entry by Suanie, I knew I had to be part of it. So here's my contribution for Vincent's Project Happy Malaysia. WARNING: Very long great-grandmother-in-law story ahead! :P

When I first arrived in Terengganu, the land of sandy white beaches, clear blue seas, astonishing islands, keropok lekor and jus gelas besar (some say marine turtles too but you would be hard-pressed to find one these days), to pursue my first degree (of my choice), we freshmen were told to embrace life in the laid-back fishing village instead of cursing every single living thing around us for getting our behinds sent to this god-forsaken place. The truth is, there were just a handful of us who could be seen with a smile on our faces. Since I was offered to pursue a degree of my choice, I suppose there's nothing that could possibly upset me at the time.

According to the orientation facilitators, life in Terengganu is one life you could not get anywhere else in Malaysia. As an example, they told an alleged true story about how one student dropped his wallet, had walked about 100m down the road only for an old man to call out to him from behind, walked quickly up to him and returned his wallet (cash, condom and all). Obviously thankful for what the old man had done, he offered the old man a cash reward only for the old man to decline. The old man remarked that it is only right that he returned the wallet to its rightful owner and no reward was necessary. Inside the wallet were a few hundred ringgit but not one note was out of place. The old man never even bothered to look at the contents of the wallet.

That story stuck with me because it stood out like a sore thumb. Coming from a bustling city like Penang where something like this could only happen in dreams, I was totally skeptical of what the seniors were trying to feed our tiny little brains. What they were trying to tell us was the poeple in Terengganu were truly honest and friendly folks but to us the story was pure bullshit. How is it possible that someone would return a loaded wallet to its owner? Are there still honest people these days?

As I walked through the streets of Kuala Terengganu, I experienced first hand how friendly and hospitable Terengganu folks can be. I was on one side of a busy main road waiting to cross to the other side when the moving cars actually stopped in traffic so I could cross the road! This happened right in the middle of town on a busy main street! It wasn't as if traffic was not moving that they had to stop. It wasn't as if I was at a zebra crossing or some traffic lights. They just saw me trying to cross the road and actually stopped their cars so I could cross. The best thing is, it happened nearly everytime I wanted to cross the road! Now then, try beating that for friendliness and hospitality! Even here in USM (or anywhere else for that matter), road users don't seem to understand that they are suppose to stop at zebra crossings for pedestrians to cross. Of course, all of that changed when I was in my final year of study as an influx of vehicles with 'W' number plates flooded the streets of Terengganu. Driving ethics were flushed down the toilet bowl and crossing the roads became even more dangerous than performing yoga on a full stomach.

I started to believe that life in Terengganu is indeed unique and wonderful. The sleepy fishing town is so stress-free you would want to stay there forever. But that is not exactly my story for Project Happy Malaysia although it probably would do considering the haphazard driving we see everyday on Malaysian roads. Instead, it is more related to the alleged true story I mentioned in the earlier part of this story.

It was the eve of my very final paper. After tomorrow, I would be a free man. Instead of preparing for that exam, I had to run around doing something else. As I was riding pillion on my friend's bike on the way home after lunch, I suddenly realised that my wallet had slipped out of my pocket somewhere along the road. I immediately informed my friend and we quickly backstracked. It was at most just five minutes before I realised I had lost my wallet and it was just a short distance of searching to do but we couldn't find any trace of my wallet.

Consigned to the thought of having lost my wallet for good, we went to the main police station in Kuala Terengganu to lodge a police report. Upon arrival, they directed me to lodge the police report at a secluded police station which was about an hour's journey away because that police station was responsible for the district where I lost my wallet. Arggh! I hate bureaucracy.

Since we were already in town, I went to the National Registration Department to apply for a new IC. I was told that the IC would be ready in about three months time and I had to personally collect it from that very branch itself! Since I was going to be in Terengganu for another week at most, I decided to live without an IC for a week and apply for a replacement back in Penang instead. Boy, did I feel like an illegal immigrant at the time! Again, bureaucracy!

After spending a solid few hours trying to settle my lost wallet woes, I really felt guilty that my friend was tagging along just to accompany me because he knows how distraught I was. He could really use the few hours to prepare for the final paper. As for me, I couldn't care less if I flunked the paper. I just wasn't in the mood anymore to do anything else.

After a long and ardous journey, we finally reached the very secluded in-the-middle-of-nowhere police station. After mentioning to the police officer at the counter that I was there to make a police report regarding my lost wallet, he politely asked me to wait for my turn. I told him that I could easily write the report myself and would really appreciate it since we could get it all over with sooner rather than later and go home to prepare for our final paper. He smiled at me, reminded me that patience was a virtue and told me not to worry at all. Anyway, he said it was going to be more complicated than just writing a police report. Gahh! Bureaucracy, bureaucracy, bureaucracy!!! I was so close to exploding there and then.

Having taken his own sweet time to settle the person before me, he finally called me over and instructed me to write my name on a piece of paper. I did what he asked although I couldn't see the relevance of that to me making a police report. He glanced through my name and flipped the paper over. He asked, "Ini name you? (Is this your name?)", referring to a name scribbled on the other side of the paper. It resembled my name although there were a few typos so I replied, "Agak sama-lah. (About the same)." What he said after that changed my day 180 degrees. "Jangan risau dik. Dompet you sudah dijumpa. Semua pun ada. Duit pun ada. Kan I kata tadi tak payah risau? (Don't worry. Your wallet has been found. Everything is there even your money. Didn't I tell you not to worry early on?)"

I was totally relieved to hear that although I didn't believe the part about my money still being there. All I wanted was my personal documents to be there so I wouldn't need to replace them. I didn't mind losing the money, really. He assured me that my money was all there down to the very ringgit and handed me a note.

He gave me instructions on who, where, when and how to collect my wallet. I proceeded as instructed and got back my wallet with every single item still intact, money down to the very ringgit! It was truly unbelievable and the story I first heard during orientation flashed back into memory. The person who found my wallet was an ustaz (religious teacher) teaching in a primary school nearby who saw my wallet drop and immediately picked it up which he promptly handed over to the ajutan (some ranking army training officer if my memory serves me right) of the army training camp nearby.

The ustaz admitted however that if it were to be someone else who found the wallet, I would probably not be so lucky. Many of my friends pointed out how lucky I was to have an ustaz find my wallet. To me, it doesn't matter at all if you are a religious guru or not. As long as you are honest and have a good heart, you would have returned the wallet to its rightful owner. You can be the most pious person and still be evil if you wanted to.

Anyway, I bought a fruit basket and delivered it to him at the school to thank him personally. That was immediately after I've aced my final paper, achieved a GPA of 4.0 for the last semester and went on to be the top student in my course *ahem*. To this day, I still keep that piece of note to remind me of this incident. Now I have this blog entry to do so too. I may not like many things in Malaysia (as can be seen by many of my blog entries) but it is incidents like this one that reminds me Malaysia is not all bad. Bureaucracy may suck but if it weren't for bureaucracy that sent me to that secluded police station, I wouldn't have known that my wallet was already found and would have gone to all the trouble to replace all my personal documents and paid for the replacements too.

True, Malaysia needs to improve on a lot of things but if you think hard enough, there are many aspects of the country that you love so much. As the saying goes, there's no place like home. There is hope for Malaysia after all and it is us Malaysians that can and will decide how we want to shape our nation. As our nation celebrates its 49th year of independence, let's look at the brighter side of things about Malaysia, at least for just one day. Our country deserves that much. No need for any Jalur Gemilang. As they say, it's the thought that counts.

Happy Merdeka.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Reason For Taking Leave

A joke for the weekend. Received this through email:

I urgently needed a few days off work, but I knew the Boss would not allow me to take a leave.

I thought that maybe if I acted "CRAZY" then he would tell me to take a few days off.

So I hung upside down on the ceiling and made funny noises. My co-worker asked me what I was doing?

I told her that I was pretending to be a light bulb so that the Boss would think I was "CRAZY" and give me a few days off.

A few minutes later the Boss came into the office and asked "What are you doing ?"

I told him I was a light bulb. He said "You are clearly stressed out. Go home and recuperate for a couple of days".

I jumped down and walked out of the office.

When my co-worker followed me, the Boss asked her "...And where do you think you're going?"

She said, "I'm going home too, I can't work in the dark."

I'm going to take leave now. Looking at my fishes swim round and round in the tanks are making me dizzy. :P Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Burj Dubai - World Tallest In 2008

Just amazing! The Burj Dubai looks truly immaculate and something from a futuristic film. Looks like Dubai is seriously moving ahead by leaps and bounds. Look how tiny the Petronas Twin Towers and the Eiffel Tower are compared to the Burj Dubai! Click on the images to enlarge.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Journal Marathon

I just don't know what got into me today. I was on a journal reading marathon! I just kept reading and reading and reading....article after article after article...all nine of them (halfway through the tenth now but I'm blogging this post at this moment when I should be finishing it! :P)...having gone through over 100 pages of texts, graphs, tables and data...all in slightly over six hours.

I was seriously lethargic when I went to campus this morning. All I wanted to do was get my work done and find a place to lie down or at least get some much needed shut-eye. However, that wasn't to be. I took out my collection of journal articles (I don't even dare to count how many of them are there) and started reading them. One after another I finished reading them and yearned for more. Although I did still feel tired, my enthusiasm overcame all that tiredness and I just kept digesting the facts printed in very small fonts on A4 paper so I can save the trees paper and ink. The last time I showed this much enthusiasm reading journal articles (and so many of them at once) was during the start of my final year as an undergraduate when I was preparing for my research.

I did try to set for myself a target of reading ten journal articles a day before this but just didn't get on to doing it. It felt like a Herculean effort at that time and still do. Maybe I can start with at least two to five articles a day and see how it goes from there. Doesn't seem much really after what I've done today. I should seriously put my foot down and make it a habit. The articles are just piling up week after week!

I think the workaholic me has decided to show up once again. Yesterday I scrutinised through ALL my previous research data and found some interesting results that I didn't manage to see before. And today I'm digging through journal articles. I think I'm liking every bit of it. Strange but true. I hope I can keep this going. I really need to keep this going. I have a whole lot more of journal articles that need my attention! :P

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Who's Smarter - Man or Woman?

A joke for the weekend:

A woman was out golfing one day when she hit the ball into the woods. She went into the woods to look for it and found a frog in a trap. The frog said to her, "If you release me from this trap, I will grant you three wishes."

The woman freed the frog, and the frog said, "Thank you, but I failed to mention that there was a condition to your wishes. Whatever you wish for, your husband will get times ten!" The woman said, "That's okay."

For her first wish, she wanted to be the most beautiful woman in the world.

The frog warned her, "You do realise that this wish will also make your husband the most handsome man in the world, an Adonis whom women will flock to."

The woman replied, "That's okay, because I will be the most beautiful woman and he will have eyes only for me." So, KAZAM-she's the most beautiful woman in the world!

For her second wish, she wanted to be the richest woman in the world. The frog said, "That will make your husband the richest man in the world. And he will be ten times richer than you." The woman said, "That's okay, because what's mine is his and what's his is mine." So, KAZAM-she's the richest woman in the world!

The frog then inquired about her third wish, and she answered, "I'd like a mild heart attack."

Moral of the story: Women are clever. Don't mess with them.

Attention female readers: This is the end of the joke for you. Stop here and continue feeling good.

Male readers: Please scroll down.

The man had a heart attack ten times milder than his wife!!!

The real moral of the story:
Women are really dumb but think they're really smart. Let them continue to think that way and just enjoy the show."

PS: If you are a woman and are still reading this; it only goes to show that women never listen!!! :P

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bukit Aman's Malaysia Control Centre (MCC)

A friend of mine sent me this which I think is worthwhile posting:

Here are some useful numbers that you should have in your mobile phones. Key in these hotline numbers (03-22627555/03-22626555) into your mobile phone. They may save your life. Those are the numbers for Bukit Aman's Malaysia Control Centre (MCC), the call centre for all police emergencies. The police are urging Malaysians to have these numbers in their mobile phone.

Bukit Aman Public Relations Superintendent, Mohamad Daud said motorists may help prevent cases like the recent murder of assistant computer engineer Mohamad Nazri Ismail. He added that even after the crime has occurred, the police could go to the crime scene in the shortest possible time and it may result in the capture of those responsible. Also the recent murder of the KTar student, we can all help to minimize the cruel crime.

An MCC spokesman said the public from any parts of Malaysia can call the centre to report an emergency anytime. "We will direct the call to the nearest police station for the officers there to handle the matter," said the spokesman.

There are now over 15 million mobile phone users in Malaysia. You can make a difference.

Other CCC phone numbers are
  • Negri Sembilan: 06-7682222
  • Malacca: 06-2851999
  • Johor: 07-2254459
  • Penang: 04-2691999

For more information call MCC at 03-22626555/22627555.

I've saved the numbers in my phone. Have you?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hard Rock Cafe Coming To Penang?

Have you guys heard? It seems like Hard Rock Cafe will be coming to Penang! Yeah, I know...OLD NEWS!!! But wait...have you heard of any news of it after that initial announcement? Zilch! Well, not like I'll be frequenting it often when it opens, it's good news indeed as it gives us Penangites another place to spend our hard-earned money. :P

Well, I think it's a good thing really but seriously, why all the way up in Batu Ferringhi? Are you just catering to the Ang Mohs (foreigners)? The choice of Casuarina Beach Resort would mean that it will be at nearly the very end of the chains of beach hotels located at the famous stretch of sandy beaches. With Mutiara Beach Resort now closed for renovation, Bayview Beach Resort (the neighbour of Casuarina Beach Resort) will be the last hotel at Batu Ferringhi. Do you know how far it is to travel from the other parts of the island especially when you have to maneuver through the winding roads of Batu Ferringhi?

Not to mention that there is practically only ONE way to reach the joint and if there were to be an occurrence of a landslide/road accident that render that road unusable, everyone is probably screwed. Seriously, who would want to use the Balik Pulau road and probably have to make a near all-island roadtrip just to get there? I would very much prefer it to be at Gurney Drive, Upper Penang Road, Tanjung Bungah or Tanjung Tokong. At least it will feel like 'part of the family' with other similar joints around. Yes it would probably be competition but you would probably benefit more from spillovers than competition. We are talking of Hard Rock Cafe here aren't we?

I'm not sure if they are seriously going to open an outlet here in Penang, wherever it ends up. Like I said, after the initial announcement, there has been no follow-up news at all. Anyway, you know how Hard Rock Cafe is famous for their merchandise...

Shirt my brother bought me from New Orleans before
Hurricane Katrina hit

...I'm looking forward to see this:

...before the famous and notorious pasar malam (night market) pirates come out with their own cheap versions of course. :P

Monday, August 14, 2006

What Prawn Is That YET Again?

If you recall not so long ago I wrote a piece about prawns and how The Star messed up the names and all. Well, they were at it again recently (this article is kinda old but it has been left unfinished and collecting dust, cobwebs and what-nots, calling out to me to finish it and here it is now :P).

Recently, the Metro North section did it again in this article. [PDF] (Note: Emphasis mine)

Breeding tilapia in old mining pool

AN ex-mining pool in Pantai Kamloon, Kepala Batas, will soon be turned into a major centre for caged freshwater tilapia breeding.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shariff Omar said about 200 cages would be installed there at the cost of RM1.2mil.

"We hope to release 400,000 tilapia fry into these cages and reap yields weighing 170 metric tonnes when the fish grow to adult size," he said,

He was speaking to reporters after releasing 100,000 udang galah (lobster) fry into the Prai River in Kampung Air Itam Dalam, Sungai Dua, recently.

He said the Penang Government had earmarked a 204ha piece of land for aquaculture activities in Penaga.

"The state Fisheries Department had recently released green mussel spats into the sea off Penaga as well as tiger prawn fry into a nearby river," he said.

Mohd Shariff said the release of udang galah fry into the Prai River were aimed at helping about 40 fishermen whose income had been affected by a flood mitigation project in the area.

"We have released 200,000 udang galah fry here and hope to release up to a million fry in a year's time.

"Each fry costs only six sen. But, the returns are lucrative as adult udang galah can fetch up to RM35 per kilo," he said.

People, people, people.....udang galah is NOT lobster. The lobster is actually called udang karang! Udang galah is the Malaysian Giant Freshwater Prawn!!! Is it that hard to check your facts first before publishing the article?!? Haven't heard of Google? If you put the lobster into the Prai river, they will all float to the surface of the water.....DEAD! Udang galah is a freshwater species (brackishwater during larvae stage) while the lobster is a marine species. Great difference!

I would like to point out however in some of their recent articles regarding aquaculture with the reference of udang galah, they did finally get it right. I just hope they keep it that way. Seriously, they should consider hiring a Scientific Editor to check their articles or at least check their facts first before publishing them. With so many reliable sites you can refer to on the internet, I do not see why the public is being misinformed through such poor standards of editing and journalism.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Another Round Of PIKOM PC Fair

The second round of this year's PIKOM PC Fair is underway at the moment with convention centres being packed with people searching for bargain buys, people visiting just to update themselves with the latest gadgets or people there just to feel the touch of human skin rubbing against theirs, exchanging sweat, germs, dirt and all. There are some who just take advantage of the crowded situation and let their hands stray. The last class of people is exactly the reason why I'm not exactly fond of attending PC Fairs nowadays.

Anyways, like always I would just like to highlight just some notable bargains for future reference (kinda like some price tracking mechanism for me).

1GB Secure Digital Card --- RM75
1GB USB Drive --- RM70
40GB - 60GB Mobile HDD + Case --- RM230-300
DELL 15" LCD Monitor --- RM489
DELL 17" LCD Monitor --- RM519
Imation DVD Writer --- RM139
Canon LBP 2900 --- RM 415
Canon Toner EP303 --- RM 190
DELL Inspiron 6400 --- RM2899

The price of the 1GB SD card now is really mind-boggling. Just two years back, I had to haggle for the price of one to be reduced to RM350 but now I'll probably be able to get FIVE pieces of that without much haggling!!! I guess it's OK since I really did need one at the time and have been using it ever since but damn it would have been sweet if the price was what it is now!

Prices are dropping across the board basically. I still do not have a USB drive and probably will never have one. I still fancy the mobile HDD instead and the price has dropped considerably from the >RM500 days. LCD displays will become mainstream very soon if prices keep on dropping the way it has. I've predicted that by the end of the year, we would be able to purchase an LCD display for under RM500. Guess what? You can do so now! Bulky CRT monitors will truly be a thing of the past VERY SOON.

I also still do not own a DVD writer but how many people really needs one anyway? It is definitely very affordable to own one now but even if my aging CD writer kicks the bucket one day, I still find it hard to justify opting for a DVD writer instead of just a Combo drive.

What really interests me this time around was the price of notebooks. Can you believe that with RM3000 you would be able to own a Dell notebook fitted with a Intel Centrino Duo Mobile processor, 1GB DDR2 SDRAM, DVD writer, 80GB HDD, free delivery and still get back a considerable sum of change?!? Truly unbelievable. I'll probably be able to afford purchasing a considerably loaded system next year if prices keep on dropping the way it is happening now. I've already planned to ditch the desktop system if ever my current PC would to require some major overhauling. In fact, I advised my cousin to purchase a notebook capable of doing all of what he needs to do and more for just below RM2000. It may be just a Celeron system but hey, how many actually needs a power-packed system anyway? I can be considered quite a heavy user and I still can't justify splurging out on a really powerful system.

Owning my own laptop doesn't seem such a herculean effort anymore since saving up RM2000 is very much achievable. I'm ditching my dreams of owning an Apple MacBook for now. :P

Oh and just so you know, I didn't go to PC Fair at all and still I'm able to get the information of these bargains. When you have PC Depot, Dell and several other shops providing their price lists online, it's not that hard at all to gauge the range of pricing for certain products but really, even without the haggling these prices are really unbelievable! Is it any wonder why I'm not exactly inspired to go to any PC Fairs nowadays? Well, even if I was inspired to go to the one at PISA last week, I was too busy to go anyway. :(

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