Monday, December 25, 2006

The Family Man

I was in Singapore over the weekend, and on Christmas eve, I caught The Family Man on Channel 5, a movie I missed some years back.

The movie's concept is based on Dicken's A Christmas Carol and Jimmy Stewart's Its A Wonderful Life, so you could probably guess what the movie was about. But I felt that Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni managed to pull it off and came up with a heartwarming and reflective movie.

The story basically revisits the modern questions of whether you can have it all and what really matters in your life. The answers that came were pretty obvious, but of course, those high fliers among you may beg to differ. And those of us who are struggling hard to provide a better life for their loved ones may feel the same, too.

I don't think the reality is as clear cut as portrayed in the movie, after all, I can think of people who do have it all. But during this festive season, if you've been feeling somewhat dissatisfied with your life, I think there is still one message from the movie that applies to all of us , and that is we are where we are today because of our choices. And we often forget that we can choose.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Long Bridge

“Do you want to see your grandfather’s old house?” The elderly lady in front of me asked excitedly. “It’s just in one of the backlanes nearby”. The auntie was the wife of one of my dad’s cousins in China.

So off we went, the auntie leading us through winding cobbled backlanes. We reached a dilapidated wooden house. “This is where your grandfather grew up”.

The house is not much to look at now, but at that moment I felt a strong sense of belonging. I was finally able to see beyond my grandfather’s life, to see my roots in that shabby house.

“Your grandfather was the only son in the family. They had to frequently hide him to prevent him from being taken away”.

So, once upon a time, in the early part of the twentieth century, a poor family lived in a small house in a remote village called Chang Qiau (Long Bridge). The family had a son and a daughter. One day, the son made his way to a coastal town, presumably Xiamen, and traveled by boat to a place called Sarawak in Nan Yang (the South Seas). There, he was given some land by the white Rajah, and worked hard to create his own place in the sun. He settled down and his wife bore him two sons and two daughters. He never forgot his sister in China and over the years kept in touch with her by letters. The sister also started her own family in a small town called Ping Nang.

After many years, the grandson and granddaughter of the son who left China found themselves back where the son came from, looking at the house the son had left behind.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Nanowrimo again

This post is in response to my good friend Simon's reminder that once again Nanowrimo is upon us.

Nanowrimo is where writer-wannabes all over the world make a commitment to write a 50000 word novel in a month - specifically, the month of November.

Last year I enthusiastically signed up thinking I could do those writing while on two 12 hour flights. Alas, I got stuck after just 1000 words. Kudos to Simon who managed to slog through the whole thing and got the 50k :)

Amongst my blogging mates, apart from Simon I think SexySiren has the most writing talent to produce a novel, she writes with passion and has a nice way of putting things. Kay, what say you? Do you have a novel for us next year? :)

Monday, November 06, 2006


Have you ever wondered where the Internet will go from here? The Net has evolved in so many unexpected ways over the past ten years that it is hard to predict what it'll be like even five years down the line.

Well, one person dared to, and what a prediction it was. Geoff Ryman provided a breathtaking vision of what will happen to the Net in the year 2019 in his sci-fi novel Air.

I happened to read the book while travelling with my parents in the rural parts of China recently, and what I saw there provided a striking parallel to the rural village described in the book.

In the year 2019, the Net has become Air - all pervasive, all encompassing. It has become part of each individual, man and the Net together as one.

The main story of how Air came to affect one of the last places on earth to receive it provides a touching and moving context to all of us of what the Net really means to each ordinary person in this world. Sometimes we tend to forget that for more than two thirds of the world's population, the Net means nothing to them.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Gambling Ghost (or Du Gui)

According to the movies, there can only be one God of Gamblers, but in real life there are plenty of Gambling Ghosts, i.e. those who are just plain addicted to gambling in any form.

Being Chinese (and despite being a Christian at the same time), it was somewhat inevitable that at certain points in my life, I was one of those ghosts, too.

My earliest recollection of gambling was going to the little tuck shop opposite my house to play tikam-tikam. This is a board game where you buy tickets from the bottom half of the board in the hope of the ticket number matching one of the numbers on the top half of the board. Each number on the top half holds another ticket which when opened, reveals the prize you have won. I remember the tickets were 5 sen a piece, and the prizes ranged from 10 sen to 50 sen (a big sum back then, hehe). The friendly aunty at the tuck shop always persuaded me to reinvest my prizes in more tickets, so I usually walked out of the shop empty handed. At the time, I didn't realize that this is one of the classic symptoms of a gambling ghost, i.e. always going for one more try.

When I entered Form 1, a friend introduced me to another tuck shop, where, hidden at the back, was a real slot machine!! My allowance back then was only RM20 a month, so luckily (!) I did not get to play much, since per bet was a massive 50 sen.

In Form 3, the whole bunch of us discovered card games, and during Chinese New Year, we played endlessly. By the end of the holidays, we were so addicted we even organized additional sessions after school hours. Some of us had very understanding parents who actually enjoyed having us around and gambling in their houses (not mine, though).

When I left my hometown for college, I graduated (ahem) to buying Magnum 4D and playing Mah Jong. Mah Jong, I must say, is a superb game of skill and strategy, despite its association with the gambling Chinese all over the world. I remember spending the weekends at my kaki's house in Cheras, our whole time preoccupied with "washing the table" (the Hokkien euphemism for playing Mah Jong).

At the same time, during the holidays, I spent my time hanging around my uncle's snooker centre, where horse racing video games were the rage. This involved turf club style betting on virtual horse races, and at RM 1 a pop, it was surprising to find out that some folks actually lost fortunes on it. The machines are still around to this day, hidden in the back rooms of snooker parlours and cybercafes all over Klang Valley.

After my 18th birthday, me and my mate decided it was time for us to pay a visit to the shrine of gamblers in Malaysia - Genting Highlands. Age of admittance was (and still is) 21, so we tried our utmost to grow mustaches and dressed in our most serious outfits, and managed to sneak in. It was a revelation, watching people lose RM20k on blackjack in 30 minutes. We knew then we were way out of our league, and didn't go back again until we graduated from uni.

When in uni in UK, I was actually quite a good boy, refraining from gambling until some juniors introduced me to the joys of horse race betting in my final year. Horse races are held almost every single day in the UK, even some Sundays. There is an element of skill involved in this, and till this day, it remained the only form of gambling where I actually did come out on the plus side (to the tune of about 500 pounds).

After graduating, I was barely surviving on my fresh graduate salary, so there was a lull, until a hefty raise the following year pulled me into the biggest casino of them all - the stock market. The year was 1997 - the timing could not have been more perfect. Needless to say, I suffered massive losses, which took years to pay off.

The start-stop-start cycle of my gambling habit finally stopped when I met my wife. Its been a good 5 years since I did any serious gambling, and except for the occasional social game of blackjack, hardly indulged in any form of gambling at all. As a Christian, I have to say I'm quite ashamed of those days, interesting though they were.

And I have to thank God that I didn't end up a permanent gambling ghost. One of my mates from the college Mah Jong days ended up addicted to all forms of gambling, and has lost upwards of RM150k at the last count. As his friends, the whole bunch of us old school mates have been trying to talk some sense into him, but it looks like only God can break his habit.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Crazy About Michael Wong (Guang Liang)

Recently I've been crazy about Michael Wong's songs. For the uninitiated, there's a pretty good write-up about him on Wikipedia (which I suspect was written by his publicist :P)

Over the years I've heard his songs when he was part of a duo, and later when he went solo. Earlier this year, I was at a Chinese wedding (yeah, the type where you have badly sung karaoke as part of the entertainment), and a bunch of kids went up to sing his monster hit from 2005, Dong Hua (literally, Fairy Tale). Something struck me about the song, it was both sweet and yet tinged with sadness. As if he lost something and he knew he would never get it back.

Anyway, today while bored out of my skull waiting for my wife to finish her shopping in 1 U, I popped over to the music store to buy my second (ahem) original CD in 2 years. And I was instantly hooked.

After listening to his songs the whole afternoon, I finally decided that him being a boy from a provincial town in Malaysia had a lot of to do with how he came with all these sad, wistful songs. If you look at his MTV's, you'll find that most of them reflect the same sense of loss and nostalgia. Listening to his songs reminded me of my days in secondary school, of having crushes on the girl in the the secondary school next door, of cycling to school and days spent fooling around with mates. Of days spent dreaming when I would grow up and leave this town with its quaint old shops and familiar faces.

I suspect for many of us now working in KL and Singapore, and even beyond, his songs sends us back to our more innocent days when life was so much less complicated and more joyful. I think that's what made him so successful in recent years, him having touched a part deep inside us with his songs, reminding us once again of who we really are and where we came from.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

For Want of A Good Plumber

In the first few years that I moved into my current home, everything was pretty much in good order and I took no notice of the countless cards and leaflets advertising renovation and plumbing services that fill my post box almost every day.

But one fine day the house water tank had a problem and I was finally forced to look for a plumber. Out came the handphone and I started sms'ing friends for recommendations. Surprisingly no one seems to know anyone who they could recommend.

After much nagging from the wife I finally decided to bite the bullet and called a number on one of the cards.

What happened next left a bitter taste in my mouth. The guy who came quoted some outrageous figure to fix the problem (I figured the price should probably be half of that at most), and when I declined his offer he blasely told me that there is a minimum RM50 call out charge. At that point I was ready to let go with a string of expletives, but in the end I bit my lip and paid what he asked for.

It took the guy all of 15 minutes to climb up to the roof and replace the spoilt stopper (that was all that needed fixing, the stopper). I know I'm paying for his skills but still, it really felt like a rip-off to me.

If anyone knows a good reliable plumber in the Klang vallet who won't charge an arm and a leg, I want to know his number!

Different country.....

I was back again recently at my wife's hometown of Kluang. I was watching tv at the in-laws home when suddenly I realized that I've never observed the folks in the house watching Malaysian tv. Not only that, everyone in the town seems to speak standard Mandarin, and with a Singaporean accent, too, no less.

And my wife admits to knowing the lyrics to "Majulah Singapura"!!

We are about 150 km away from the real thing, and yet it seems like Kluang (and many other towns in the vicinity) are just a suburb of Singapore.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Triple Play

Being in the IT industry, I hear the term "triple play" a lot.

Recently, a couple I know is going to have their own "triple play" in their personal lives. They are going to get married, after which they will immediately move to a new foreign land, and start new jobs.

I was quite apprehensive and worried for them when I heard about their plans. They are not only going to have to cope with the changes that come with living together, but also adjust to a new culture and way of living, and finally they also have to deal with the shock and impact of working with new people in a new environment.

But then again, both of them have been "citizens of the world", to borrow an advertising phrase, having travelled and worked extensively in different parts of the world in their careers. Maybe they will be able to use their experiences to overcome the challenges that await them.

Anyway, I wish them all the best in their new life together. Being a romantic, I believe love conquers all, so I believe their love will hold them together as they tackle all these challenges :)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hooked on Pandora

Ashlight introduced me to Pandora some time back, and although I was intrigued by it, I felt it was just too slow then.

Recently I gave it another try, and was instantly hooked, creating station after station based on songs from my all time fav playlists.

Its still slow (not sure whether this is Streamyx or Pandora's fault, I switched off my BT client and got no improvement), but finding unheard songs that you actually like was both exciting and addictive.

Hats off to whoever thought of this idea!

For those of you who are from the 80's generation - trying creating a station based on Kyrie (by Mr Mister). Just sit back and enjoy :)

Love At First Bite

After much bugging from my wife, I finally took her to Chiang Mai for a holiday two weeks ago. My good friend Matt was also in town, but I'll talk more about our adventures together later.

Some of you may know that I worked in Chiang Mai for a while two years ago. Back then, our Thai partner took a few lucky colleagues to this cake shop called Love At First Bite. Unfortunately, I was not one of them.

So, this time, with plenty of time on our hands, we departed from Suriwongse Hotel on foot in search of this holy grail of cheese cakes.

How was it? Well, have a look :)

What we didn't know was that not only do they make the most heavenly cheesecakes, they make excellent chicken pie as well. We went back for more two days later:-

For those of you planning to go to Chiang Mai and would like to find the place, just head to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) office across the Mae Ping River (5 minutes walk from Night Bazaar), then head north until you see a small lane just before a Christian school, turn right and its 50 metres down the road on your right.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


My good friend Simon bought me this book about the rise and fall, and rise again, of Steve Jobs last year as a birthday gift (thanks Simon!)

I started off reading the Ipod chapters, and its only lately that I backtracked to the earlier chapters about Steve's years in Apple. What I read brought back a lot of memories about how computers used to quicken my pulse and how I spent all my pocket money buying up computer magazines.

A lot of the stuff that we take for granted now did not exist in those days, and Steve, despite his flaws made the computer industry a better place by his sheer vision and energy.

However, till today I never owned an Apple product (althogh I did use the Mac a lot during my uni days). Maybe the time will come one day when I go for an Ipod.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Goodbye, Mr Sven

While watching the England-Ecuador match the other night, I remarked to a friend that one of the reasons I love to watch football are the parallels I could draw between it and the corporate world.

At the time of writing this, I suppose a lot of people are still in mourning over England's exit. But really, no one should be surprised that they have gone out. In fact, from the way they played, they should have left a round earlier.

And all this was due to the English FA's mistaken belief in a Swede. Sure, the players didn't play well. But those who follow the EPL would know what John Terry, Frank Lampard, et al are capable of. Those who have seen what Steven Gerard and Wayne Rooney have achieved know their true powers.

In Sven Eriksson, there has never been a more stark example of a manager who has negated his staff, who has in fact, brought them backwards rather than forward. Mr. Sven did not make full use of the resources at his disposal. He did not give them a clear goal and instructions on how to achieve that goal. On the field in Germany, the bewilderment of the players, the look of confusion on the players faces as they try to carry out their manager's half baked plan was almost painful to watch.

Contrast that with the arrogant Mourinho, who, despite having to deal with big egos at Chelsea, have managed to build a team that functions as a team. Week in, week out, the players know what is expected of them and they duly produced the goods.

Ditto for Wenger. Prior to his move Arsenal, Thierry Henry was an unappreciated player in Italy. But under the careful mentoring of Wenger he blossomed into one of the most feared forwards in the world.

If all these sounds familiar to you, that's because we probably have a Sven or a Wenger in our office, too :)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

World Cup 2006

Okay, since almost everyone has done a post on the World Cup recently, I thought I would do one as well, haha. As usual, I prefer a trip down nostalgia lane, as enough have been said about this year's edition anyway.

1986 was the first time I got to know about World Cup. I was in Form 3 then, and Benson & Hedges with its CGI gold tigers and flutists ads (remember them?) was the kind sponsor who brought us the broadcasts. The match that stuck in my mind to this day was Brazil vs Fance in the quarterfinals. Both teams played brilliantly that day, but it ended in a 1-1 draw and had to be decided on penalties. The World Cup was hosted in Mexico that year, so the 12 hour time difference meant getting up at 3 am, 4 am in the morning to catch the matches.

1990, I was in college, and had no access to the tv as I was renting a room. So, I caught some matches on BBC radio (caught the infamous Cameroon-Argentina opening match), at a friend's house in Melaka (Italy vs I can't remember who), and another friend's landlady's son's (who kept swearing every few minutes) tv. 1990 was a really forgettable year, everyone played very negatively, and all the goalies have at least 50% of the possession in the matches (back pass rules were different in those days). Thank goodness they changed the back pass rules after that year.

1994, I was in uni in UK. My mind wasn't really on the matches, it was on a girl, and as a result, to this day I just can't recall a single thing about that year's world cup, except that Brazil won it. Oh, just in case you're curious, I didn't get the girl. Should've paid attention to the football after all :)

1998, I was working in PJ. Matches were caught at a friend's boss' house (who had Astro). I supported Holland, and was frustrated when they fell to an obviously inferior Brazil on penalties in the semis. That was the era of Marc Overmars and a young Dennis Bergkamp, both of whom, of course, played for a gentleman called Arsene Wenger at Arsenal :)

2002, I was struggling to finish a project (which in the end never got finished). Matches were caught on the web (thank goodness for minute by minute reports), at Fraser's Hill, and at home (yeah, finally got the Astro installed). I remember going for dinner in SS2, andsaw people just standing mesmerised at the sidewalks, taking in matches that for the first time, are all not after 12 midnight, as they were held in Korea and Japan. Sadly, 2002 was also the year too many people I knew got caught in the web of football betting and lost fortunes.

2006, so far I've only followed the Japan (all heart but no stamina) matches and the England (all ego but no heart) matches. Too early for me to predict the winner now, but I can guarantee 100% it will not be England (sorry England fans out there). They have looked very ordinary so far.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Medical Costs

Was visiting a church member who's suffering from leukemia last week at UMMC, and somehow the conversation turned to the costs of the treatment. The family confided that previously the treatment was at SJMC, but later moved to UMMC due to costs.

Guess how much were the charges at SJMC?

RM 40,000 for the first chemotherapy session and RM 100,000 for the second one.


If that's not motivation to get medical insurance, I don't know what is.

And don't expect that your company can cover you. Except for big companies like banks, no one's gonna give unlimited medical coverage.

So, while it may seem like an additional burden in these days of higher petrol and electricity prices, a medical insurance policy can be a life saver.

And no, I've not signed up to be an insurance agent :)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Taken For Granted

Since young, I've observed a love hate relationship between the urban folks in Sarawak and the political establishment.

Once in a while, things boil over and one or two seats in the Sarawak Assembly would end up in the DAP's hands, albeit with a small majority.

But Saturday, something seems to have tipped over for them, for they sent not one, not two but nine seats to the opposition in the state elections.

The size of the majority in those seats indicate that it is no fluke. It shows that the people are angry. Very angry.

Angry at years of neglect. Angry at years of their problems falling on deaf ears (land lease issues in Sibu seemed to drag on and on). Angry at years of empty promises. Angry at not getting their fair share (Sarawak only receives 5% of oil royalties collected, the rest goes to the federal coffers). Angry at being taken for granted.

For the good people of Sarawak worked hard and eked out a living with their own bare hands. All they asked for are good roads. Proper infrastructure. A fair share of the state's prosperity.

But apparently all that were too much to ask. And now the people have spoken. Loudly.

I salute their courage. For make no mistake, there will be recriminations.

But my sincere hope and wish is that the powers that be can see beyond the shallow issues, and look deep into the heart of these people. And hear what they are saying.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Credit Card

I paid my credit bill this month. Nothing special in that, except for the fact its the first time in 10 years that I do not have any outstanding balances on any of the cards that I own.

When I first accepted the offer of a Citibank telesales girl in 1996, little did I realize that it'll be another 10 years before I could claim myself debt free, car and housing loans aside.

The first month itself, I owed about 2000 bucks, and things went downhill since. Somehow many things happened along the way that conspired to make sure that I kept a balance.

First I owed large sums of money due to making cash advances to pay stock market losses during the Asian economic crisis. I then overspent on various vices for a few years before deciding to clean up my act when I met my wife .

When we got married four years ago, we made steady progress in paying the debt down, before house moving again forced us to pile up.

Each time when the end seemed near, something always seem to crop up and we left a balance.

We did have some other savings, but the card debt was something we wanted to get rid off using our monthly cashflow.

Finally, last month, by divine providence some extra cash came unexpectedly, and now, I'm finally able to say, truly, yes, its paid. Phew.

My good friend Egg never had a credit card and was planning to finally get one a few months ago. To him, my sincere advice is - make sure you pay it off every month! If you leave it hanging once, it'll hang on to you like a leech. I've been there :)

Monday, May 08, 2006

The CSI Effect

Was reading The Star comics this morning, and was surprised to find not one, but two cartoons alluding to CSI (on was BC, the other Hi and Lois).

This led me to an article on CNN, about how the popular series has led to juries having unrealistic expectations in terms forensic proof. A lot of people have forgotten that it is fact possible to convict someone based on circumstancial evidence and are instead demanding hard physical evidence.

Even in Malaysia there were some grumblings about how the local police is sorely lacking in the know how of collecting and analysing forensic evidence. The frustration is especially great for the relatives of victims of violent crimes such as rape and murder, where some such cases remain open for years due to lack of leads.

While it is exhilarating to see the good guys in CSI use their ingenuity to infer facts from the flimsiest of items, the more probable reality is a lot of detective grunt work, with some help from forensics.

In an ideal world, we should all be so lucky to have a bunch of dedicated scientists with all possible resources at their disposal to help us find those who caused us grief and sleepless nights.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Rest In Peace, FatAl

FatAl passed away on last Friday morning. I heard the news from his auntie who happened to be my HR manager at my new company.

I last saw him a month ago. He was very thin then, and the lump on his head has grown to the size of a tennis ball. He looked really weak. The family had decided to try traditional medicine from a Chinese doctor in Singapore.

Although I only knew him for 9 months, we became friends from the time we used to spend in the car when we car-pooled from Nov to Dec last year. I knew he desperately wanted to be well again for the sake of his family, and up until March he was still optimistic of his chances.

FatAl is the fourth friend I knew who passed away from cancer in the last 10 years. He was 41.

We all know that life is precious and our time here on earth is precious, but do we really use that knowledge to change the way we look at our lives.

When we get very annoyed with the rude driver who cut us off, do we stop and tell ourselves its not worth it.

Do we remember to express our love and appreciation to those who mean the most to us every single day.

Do we forgive those who have hurt us instead of continuing to carry bitterness in our heart.

Do we get too wrapped up in our own problems and not appreciate what we have in front of us.

Got a Sony Ericsson J300i (don't laugh!)

Went to Sg Wang over the weekend to get a new phone and ended up with a Sony Ericsson J300i :)

I take back what I said about Nokia previously, they also sported an impressive array of models, from the el-cheapo 1600 to the ultra cool N series. In fact, all the major manufacturers had very, very impressive line-ups. Which goes to show how out of date I was :P Although I've noticed the newer phones on and off, last Sunday was the first time I had a look at the new models up close. And boy, do they impress.

First off, the screens for almost all except the most basic models are hi-res and very easy on the eye. Second, the cameras for the newer models are not just a curio to impress anymore. They actually take very clear pictures (those with 2 mp cameras and above). And I'm amazed at the various shapes and sizes the phones came in.

Tempted as I was (in fact, VERY, VERY tempted) to get an O2 mini or Dopod 818 Pro, I just couldn't justify to my other half why I need a 2-in-1 device, apart from the convenience factor. It was even harder to justify getting a middle of the range device with camera. So, I opted for something which had similar functions as my Nokia 3530.

So having heard good comments about the J300i, I plonked down RM 320 of my hard earned cash for it.

The Dallab DX8 or the Dopod 818 Pro will have to wait another year :P

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Searching for a new phone

My current mobile is dying on me after more than 3 years of faithful service, so I decided it was time to hunt for a replacement. When I looked back, I realized that its been five years since I last bought a phone (my current one being a gift from my younger brother. Thanks Paul!)

During the days when all phones looked like a brick and could serve as a weapon against angry stray dogs, I got a really slim Siemens phone as my first mobile. Of course, that came at a price - poor battery life. But it worked quite well and I was sad to lose it in Bentong while on a treasure hunt back in '98.

Not wanting to be bugged anymore by a low battery beep after only a few calls, I then decided to go for a good ol' Motorola brick. Trying to carry it around in my trouser pocket was a real pain, not to mention looking very uncool :P

1999 and 2000 marked the debut of the 3210, one of Nokia's all time best sellers. I gave in to temptation and got one in the summer of 2000. The 3210 was a true classic. It was hardy, the battery life was good, and the form factor truly pocketable. The keys remained smooth and easy to use even after many years. I gave it to my mother in law, who in turn traded it for a Nokia 1600 recently.

My current phone is a Nokia 3530, and despite its age, it too has proven its usefulness. Being able to access the Net via GPRS has saved my skin on quite a few occasions, not to mention keeping me updated on football scores whenever I had to attend weekend wedding dinners. The Organiser, though basic, proved to be much more usable than my PocketPC PDA which tend to drain out its battery and leave me stranded with a wiped out memory.

I dropped the phone a year ago, and despite a repair job, it was never the same since and slowly degraded.

I've been eyeing the O2 Mini for a while, but not being to easily dial while in the car (using hands free lah) is quite off putting. The PocketPC Smartphones look to be good value, but I feel like I'm getting a device that was neither here nor there.

The Sony Ericsson P900 series is a very compelling proposition, I'm only put off by the use of the proprietary Memory Stick for storage. The flipover keypad was an inspired solution to the keypad vs screen space issue.

Apart from that, the Samsung range boasts a very impressive lineup with 3.2 MP cameras and what not. But I was told the software is buggy and, well, are usually carried by girls rather than guys. Which, come to think of it, is quite true!

Surprisingly, no Nokia phone is on my list this time. Nothing in the current lineup moved me in any way, whereas the sight of the latest Sony Ericsson or Samsung usually quickened my pulse. I'm disappointed that they decided to concentrate on making their phone sexy rather than useful and elegant. I mean, for example, the Sony Ericsson K750i not only looks good but are also packed with useful functions and a good amount of memory.

Dallab launched the DX8 recently which seems to fit my requirements perfectly, but at a suggested RRP of 2.5k, my Finance minister will surely disagree :P

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Light n Easy

Usually when I drive to and fro work I prefer to tune in to Light n Easy, because it was the least annoying of all the radio stations. The soothing oldies music (50's, 60's and 70's) helps me to get through just about anything the KL traffic cares to throw at me.

But lately, I began to realize that more often than not, it was 80's music that was on. One day, it was Total Eclipse of The Heart. The next day, Turn Back The Clock. Then suddenly, every other song was an 80's song.

I still remember when discos and pubs use to play 80's music in the 1990's to cater to the young and trendy crowd (i.e. twentysomethings). The "in" radio station then for my generation was Mix FM, which also played contemporary music in addition to the 80's, thus occupying a nice spot between the young (who listen to Hitz) and the old (who listen to Light n Easy).

But I never thought they would migrate 80's music from Mix to Light n Easy so quickly. Heck, I'm only in my mid-thirties, for goodness sakes! Its quite off-putting when the the music of your generation is turning up on an oldies station.

And another thing - what about those in their 40's to 60's? Maybe there's a market for another oldies station that plays even older songs :)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

LRT Ride

I was a bit annoyed with the young tudung-clad Malay girl who stood at the window at the head of the LRT train. She was occupying my favourite spot on the train on my way home. She looked to be in deep thought.

At Bangsar station a young Malay chap boarded and proceeded to make his way to the head of the train as well. I was even more annoyed as he tried to squeeze his way through to get to the window as well. The girl moved aside to make way for him.

Both of them starred out into the night, not a word passing between them.

Suddenly just after Universiti the guy turned around and remarked to the girl what a beautiful night it was.

It was a corny pickup line, but the girl did not seem to mind :)

They spoke softly to each other. He told her he was meeting a friend at Taman Bahagia. They chit chatted about general things. The conversation flowed easily, as if they knew each other well. After Asia Jaya the guy picked up the courage to ask for her name. She told him, and they looked at each other for a second.

It was a beautiful privilege witnessing two strangers connecting with one another, on a rainy Wednesday night, on the LRT.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The other side .....

Firstly, a word of thanks to Eric and Poh Nee, who rightly pointed out that the job of a retail consultant (haha, that's they call them nowadays) is far from easy and entails long hours of standing and facing difficult customers.

I originally wrote the post to illustrate how impersonal big mall shopping is, but somehow it came out as a criticism of the people who work there.

But I do agree with both of my friends. Sometimes we forget that while we expect people to be kind and considerate to us, we often need to be the same, too, first.

The next time you pay for your stuff at the mall, the kopitiam, wherever, pause for a while and look at the person in front of you.

He or she is also a human being just like you and me, irregardless of whether he or she looks indifferent, fierce, or just plain blank.

Without any expectations, smile and say thank you sincerely. More often than not, you will gain something unexpected back.

I often forget this myself, and that's why I love the movie Groundhog Day so much.

In the movie, Phil (Bill Murray) was stuck in the same day in the same town, in which he has to relive the same things happening around him over and over again. At first, he was totally indiferrent to the people around him. But as the day repeats itself over and over again, he began to notice things - the boy who fell off a tree, the quarreling engaged couple, the lonely school teacher, the sickly old beggar, the ladies who had a flat tire.

Since Phil knew what was going to happen the next day (because its the same day all over again), he began to use this knowledge to make a difference in everyone's lives.

Unlike Phil, when a moment passes us, we lose it forever. I think it is worth it for us to just take a risk, to just stop and make a difference in a person's life ,no matter how small it is.

So, the next time you are at the mall paying for some stuff, remember to smile :)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Of shoppers and shopkeepers ...

Was at 1 U on Saturday to catch Ice Age 2 (which was funny, but a bit aimless). Pre and post movie, I was wandering around the shops and it struck me that with a few exceptions, none of the shops were manned by the original owners.

Everywhere I go, I see only hired people, the same bored look on their faces, and the same unhelpfulness when you try to do your shopping. They are just there to : make sure no one steals the goods, grab the goods and pack them, and of course, collect money. And from what I heard from friends, turnover of these hired folks are very high.

As a result, shopping in the big malls becomes a very impersonal experience - you just go in and grab what you want with minimal human interaction. I might as well be shopping online.

My wife shops at a boutique in Puchong Jaya, and the owner, who looks after the shop herself, takes the trouble to advise her on what's suitable and what's not, and SMS her whenever new stuff comes in. Needless to say, the amount my wife spends there far exceeds what she usually spends at malls.

Which leads me to this question - why do investors, after spending considerable amounts of money setting up the most cutting edge stores at the malls, and paying sky high rents to boot, decides to just hire any Jane, Tom, Dick and Ah Moi to man them? Why not hire people with nice personalities and good attitude, and train them properly in serving and advising the customer? Do they realise that they are losing tons of revenue when potential customers walk by and decide not to buy due to the sour look on the staff's face?

A place like 1 U may be wonderful to wander around in, but in terms of real shopping (as opposed to window shopping), it leaves me cold with the staff's indifferent attitude.

Streamyx seems to be behaving again ...

Finally, after almost two weeks of crawling, my Streamyx seems to be back to normal again.

Apparently, this problem is happening everywhere - PJ, Puchong, Putra Heights, Sarawak ....

My new office is not very private, so not really able to blog when the Streamyx was down :)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Offline at the new workplace (double arggh!)

Found out that my new workplace completely banned Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger.

But I'm starting to think it might not be such a bad thing after all :)

Streamyx down (arrgh!!)

Streamyx has slowed down to a crawl in the past week, its been really difficult to get online and get anything done.

Saw an announcement on the TMNet website that they were conducting some trials. Hopefully, they will fix the problem soon.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Car prices

The hot news these few weeks has been the reduction in car prices due to the NAP. After the initial round of reductions, the government hinted that prices should be even lower.

Of course, this is all not so good news for those who just bought their wheels or those thinking of selling. In fact, I noticed a significant shrinking of car for sale ads in The Star Metro nowadays. I guess everyone is waiting for the dust to settle before deciding how to pitch their cars.

Lunch time yesterday, I went to the Toyota and Honda websites to see if they have posted up the new prices. Well, the answer is that they haven't, but one thing caught my eye. In the price list they also have prices for Labuan and Langkawi. Yes, those two tax free havens where you get cheap booze and smokes galore.

I was astounded to find out that a brand new Camry or Accord will set you back all of 80 to 85k in these two places.

And here we are, paying 85k to squeeze into a teeny City or Vios (no offence to owners of these cars, I think they're damn fine cars :) ) in all other parts of Malaysia.

Anyway, after taking out my calculators, I decided it is not worth it to change for at least the next four years. It just doesn''t make financial sense to keep upgrading something that depreciates all the time. Not to mention the fact that I'm way behind schedule in my savings and investment plans. As long as my current ride doesn't hit me with enormous repair bills (which my old Wira did), I guess I'll keep the car for as long as I can.

For those of you who are in the market for a new car, congratulations! When the dust settles in the next few months, you'll be spoilt for choice.

My recommendation of the current crop - Nissan Sentra. This one was selling for less than 100k pre-NAP, and with another 5% reduction, its the best value Japanese saloon at the moment. For not much more than a Vios or City (again, apologies to owners of these :) ), you get a 1.6 with plenty of space. Not bad.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Power of 4

I was tagged by my good pal Simon 3 weeks ago to do a meme, but I kept putting it off. Well, here goes :-

4 jobs you've had in your life

  • English teacher - teaching a bunch of fourth formers who still didn't know their verbs from their nouns. Only 1 girl in the class knew what I was on about
  • Cleaner - scrubbing 10 floors of stairways at my uni hostel during the holidays
  • Waiter at Chinese Restaurant - where I picked up "proper" Cantonese, ahem
  • Industrial Trainee - my first ever IT job, deploying programs on DEC mainframes
4 movies you could watch over and over
These are the ones I could count on to cheer me up every time :)
  • Before Sunrise - a sweet little love story
  • Working Girl - corny, but gets me every time!
  • Groundhog Day - probably Bill Murray's finest hour
  • Lost In Translation - the movie that made me fall in love with Scarlett
4 TV shows you love(d) to watch
  • CSI Miami - Horatio Caine is one cool dude
  • X Files - like Simon, only the first few seasons
  • Amazing Race
  • The Simpsons
4 places you've lived
  • rented room in Section 6, PJ - with an Indian family with a fierce dog
  • 1st floor dorm above a Chinese Restaurant in Portadown, Northern Ireland
  • rented room, SS2, PJ - a place that has everything within walking distance
  • rented room, Subang Jaya - back when SJ was still a quiet little town
4 places you've been to vacation to
  • Hong Kong - not as great as I thought, coz everything was so expensive
  • Singapore - one of my fav, its so easy to get around
  • Guang Xi, China - amazing scenery, and a world away from HK
  • Brunei - ermm, actually, there were nothing to see
4 places you would rather be
  • New Zealand - LOTR country, my dream home
  • Sibu - my hometown, where things are much simpler and there's good food everywhere
  • Kuching - where everything works and the council is doing its job!
  • Redang
4 of your favourite food
  • char koay teow - the one from Chow Yang SS2 (now Lim Mee Yoke)
  • bak kut teh
  • sushi
  • Teochew duck rice
4 websites you visit daily
  • The Edge Daily
  • All my friends' blogs (sorry have to cheat a bit, there's too many of you)
  • torrentspy
  • - always on the lookout for cheap tech gear, hehe
4 tagged

Monday, March 13, 2006

Doggy Shows For the year of the Dog

Whether by design or by coincidence, the local cinemas will be releasing two movies about dogs this year. Incidentally, both movies were released by Disney.

The first one is called "Shaggy Dog" starring Tim Allen and no doubt will be a hit among those who love cute fluffy dogs:

The second one is called "Eight Below" and is more of a tale of man's friendship with this most faithful and loyal of animals:-

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Good bye and God bless, FatAl .....

It started with some of the colleagues whispering to one another, "FatAl's back, FatAl's back". I quickly went to FatAl's cubicle.

He was in the room with the big boss. For more than half a year now FatAl has been sick. He only came into the office when he felt well enough, and that was rarely.

The last time I saw him in December, he was well enough to start using a walker instead of a wheelchair. But he didn't turn up at all in January and February.

Half an hour later a frantic MSN message popped up, "FatAl has resigned! Today's his last day!" I quickly ran over again. He was in the wheelchair again. When he turned around I saw how sick he was. He's now just skin and bones and his voice was a hoarse whisper. Tears were flowing freely among some of the staff who came to say their goodbyes. FatAl was one of the second-in-command at our office and half the office reported to him.

FatAl didn't really like talking about what was ailing him, so there were a lot of speculation about his condition. Finally, I found out from one of the senior staff.

FatAl is at the final stage of leukemia. He had suffered a relapse recently and it looks unlikely that he'll recover. He wants to spend whatever time he has left with his wife and two litttle daughters.

The rest of the afternoon the whole office was sombre. Most people left early for the day, the things that happened in the afternoon weighing heavily on their minds.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Customer Service (Mamak Style)

I rarely encounter good customer service in this good ol' country of ours, so it was a pleasant surprise to encounter good service at, of all places, the humble mamak stall.

Recently, I decided to try out the mamak stall I pass by every day on my way to work. Its one of those open air ones situated beside a car park.

After going there once, I was pleasantly surprised that the mamak guy memorised my order! On my second visit he repeated what I ordered the last time (coffee, 2 half boiled eggs, nasi lemak) and asked me whether I wanted the same. I think this guy must have hundreds of customers every day, so it was a great feeling to tell him to get me "the usual" on my second visit :)

In case you want to know, the mamak stall is located behind the Menara Getah Asli at Jalan Ampang.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Moving on again.....

Sometimes you bang on a door for a long time and wonder if it'll ever open. But when you're not banging on it, suddenly it just opened by itself.

A childhood friend whom I've not met for eight years called me up and offered me a position at his company. I liked the job scope and the benefits and everything else about the company, and we shook on it within days.

This one sounded much more like what I wanted to do, can't wait to complete the move.

I'm actually going to take a small pay cut, but I'll rather be happy than get more pay :) Learned my lesson :P

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Some Pics from the Hols

This year was my dad's 60th birthday, it was the first time our family ever bought him a cake. It still felt too awkward to sing him a birthday song, but he still looked happy enough that we did this for him:
Midnight, New Year's eve, we engaged in the traditional (and illegal) sending off of the old year and the ushering in of the new one by blasting our ears deaf:

Friday, February 03, 2006


I spent a very relaxing 6 days with my family, especially my brothers and sister whom I seldom have time to visit on normal days. I realized that with them, I can just be myself, because:-

- they don't judge you
- they don't give a damn about how important you are or how much you earn
- they're not interested in comparing
- they already know everything about you, so no need to hide or pretend

During those six days we were just like we were 20 years ago, going all over the place to search for good food, playing video games, watching movies and pigging out on CNY goodies.

It is Time

When do you know it is time to leave?

- When you don't enjoy your food anymore after another trying day ....
- when you don't even feel like laughing at your favourite comedies anymore due to worry ....
- when your bad mood affects everyone close to you ....
- when you dread Mondays so much that you want to call in sick ....
- when you feel the very life being sucked out of you when you reach the office that you can't breathe ....

What is the point of losing your life because you don't like your work?

Yes, it is time.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Remembering a departed friend ...

In a few days it'll be a friend's first anniversary of his passing on. For some reason I still kept his phone number on my mobile and his online handle on my Yahoo Messenger list. Sometimes I look at it and still half expect it to come on.

Kenny knew his time was almost up a few years ago, but he did not tell anyone about it except for my church pastor. He never gave any hint to us, and we sort of expected him to hang around forever. He was looking forward to going back to Teluk Intan to spend Chinese New Year with his family, but he passed on a week before that.

I sometimes think about him to get a better perspective of my own life. I think we sometimes spend our days as if they'll go on forever, but the reality is that they don't. It is when we realize that there will be an end that we get the courage to abandon what is not important and to embrace what is. Despite a life cut short, I know Kenny never regretted any single day of the last two years of his life, and I hope I am able to say the same at the end of every single day.

As a Christian, I'm glad to say for sure that he has gone to a better place, but a year on, the sorrow still lingers ...

New Look (Again!)

I've taken my good pal Simon's comment to heart and spent one night of my holidays hunting for a new template. Well, here it is, hope you guys like it :)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Happy New Year of the Dog 2006

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year and a good time with family and friends during the holidays. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Going Home

In five days time I'll join thousands of others in the annual CNY exodus to go back to my hometown. Sibu was the place I lived for 8 years before I left for further studies and subsequently, work. I've stayed in Klang Valley longer than that, but Sibu is still the place I prefer to call my hometown. There's an official website that looks suspiciously like a BN propaganda site.

When back home, I love to wander around the old market area near the harbour, where most of the shops have remained unchanged for the last 30 years. Here, you can still see people selling homemade baked goods (of which the kompia baked biscuit is the most famous), spices and various jungle produce. And of course I still love to wander by the riverbank and take in the evening breeze.

Chinese New Year in Sibu is a raucous affair with people competing with each other in letting off firecrackers and fireworks, and lion dances at the neighbours' houses. Every year I get reintroduced to my ever growing legion of nephews and nieces (whose names I promptly forgot again after 2 days), but they're fun to have around with their innocent antics.

Can't wait.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Passed The Finish Line

Finally, the project that seemed to go on forever went live, but not before throwing me a few more curveballs this week .

In the end, there was no joy, just sheer relief.

Now I can have a life again. Until the next one.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


" When I was young I thought of growing old
Of what my life would mean to me
Would I have followed down my chosen road
Or only wished what I could be"

from "Kyrie" by Mr Mister

I met up with some very old school friends (I've known them for 22 years) just before Hari Raya Haji. One quit his job last year to be a full time insurance agent, while another continued to struggle with his life and gambling habit. On the surface, I seem to be better off than both of them, but I over the past week I realized that I was more unhappy than they are. I think specifically my work and the amount of time that I dedicate to the things that matter to me. I had not felt any sense of satisfaction from either one of them for the past six months.

Been doing a lot of thinking about my life and discussing them with my other half.

In a sense I feel trapped, but maybe I'm not thinking right. Maybe I just need to break a few assumptions and see things in a different way in order to find a way out.

I first heard Kyrie when I was in Form 5, trying to decide where I wanted to go after the exams. Now, listening to this song again, the answer seems to be "only wished what I could be".

Hope I will find an answer soon.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

New Look

Decided to switch to a new template, hopefully it'll be easier on the eyes for everyone :)

Let The River Run

2nd of January 2006 marked the 10th anniversary of my working life. I came back from UK in November '95 and started work in MCIS (now known as MCIS Zurich) on 2nd January 1996.

One thing about working life is that so many things happen and time passes so fast that you seldom really look back or even remember what happened to you. But over the last few days I thought about where I was 10 years ago today:-

1. I was dead broke in 1996. I didn't feel like asking from my parents anymore, and had almost no money when I started work. Thanks to my good friend Stephen's generosity, I was able to bunk at his place in Cheras for a while. Yeah, I didn't save any money at all when I was younger, drank it all in Belfast (oops!).

2. I'm still quite broke in 2006. This is not really true, me and my deer have some savings stashed up. But still, some months we just scrape by. And this despite a combined income that is 5 times my 1996 salary. So many bills to pay, so many obligations to meet, sigh.

3. Public transport works in 1996. Back then I could take mini bus 32 from Cheras at 7 am, be in Kota Raya by 7.30, hop on another bus in Klang Bus Stand at 7.40, and be at my office in PJ by 8.10 am. Nowadays I leave home at 6.45 am, and it takes me 90 minutes to travel the same distance to my current office by car.

4. I was naive and idealistic in '96. I quarreled with my then boss over his pessimism and negative reaction to new ideas, on my first day of work. But over time, I learned to understand his problems and benefited fom his guidance. I remember him as kind and fair, with a good sense of humour to boot.

5. Those days there were Celcom, Adam, Mobikom, Mutiara Telekom, Maxis and Emartel. Nowadays its just Celcom, Maxis and Digi.

6. There was this wonderful bank called Phileo Allied that broke all the rules and gave amazing service to its customers. But the powers-that-be chose to destroy it in 2000 by forcing it to merge with Maybank. The former CEO of the bank was recently named one of the top 10 CEO's in Canada. Go figure.

7. The company sent me to a motivation seminar in April '96 along with 70 other people, and I came back a changed man. But cynicism soon set in as I realized things only changed for a while, everyone reverted to who they were after a few months. I was to be sent to another five motivation seminars over the next four years, including one in Ulu Langat where we had to find our way out of the jungle at 2 am in the morning. And still nothing changed.

8. My office PC then was a Pentium 133 with 32Mb RAM, 200 Mb hard disk. My current office notebook is Pentium IV 1.5 GHz, 512 Mb RAM, 60 GB hard disk.

9. The whole office shared a dial-up internet connection. I kid you not.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Me and my other half finally got around to doing the health checkup at Pathlab last Tuesday, and we went to collect the results on the last day of the year.

I sort of suspected it, but it still came as a bit of a shock.

I was over the limit in terms of bad cholesterol and uric acid.

The guy at Pathlab gave me two leaflets on how to get them down. No meat. No coffee. Exercise. No alcohol. Yipes! No life! :(

I was really looking forward to a gathering of ex-colleagues that night to count down the new year, but wasn't really in the mood anymore after that and decided to cancel. Still quite sore today that I missed it.

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