Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Home (Part 2)

Part of calling a place a home is not just the house that we stay in, but also the places nearby that we regularly go to. I'm referring to places like the church, hairdresser/barber, kopi tiam, etc that give us a sense of belonging to the place.

When we moved to Puchong almost 5 years ago, my wife and I had stayed in PJ for more than 7 years, and it took us quite a while to switch to the equivalent places in Puchong.

Our hairdresser in PJ was this chatty lady from Penang who loved to talk about everything under the sun, and all her customers seem to know her well. She used to boast that people still drove all the way to Section 17 to look for her long after they have moved. Well, we were one of those people, until a few years ago :)

SS2 and Sea Park being food paradises, we still had our dinners and even our weekend lunches and breakfasts in PJ until Cynthia was born. The stall owners at Chow Yang (now Lim Mee Yoke) used to remember what I like, and often I even automatically get served my usual drink (teh o ice) whenever I go there.

Alas, in Puchong most coffeeshops and stalls are run by foreigners, so there is no sense of belonging to speak of.

Even for pasar malam, we still went to the Thursday Chow Yang one. The usual routine was - get the fishballs and siew mai from the Hokkien auntie in front of OK restaurant, followed by jagung, then paper wrapped chicken, then Anson chee cheong fun, and finally the peanut kuih. I remember all the stalls so well that I could recognize which stalls moved or didn't turn up.

We now go to the Saturday one at Kampung Baru Puchong which, although a bit dirtier, also had a good selection of comfort food.

The only holdout until today is the PJ church we go to. Somehow, the Puchong church just didn't click and we continue to make the 25 km journey to PJ every Sunday.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sorry Is The Hardest Word

If there's anything harder than saying sorry, it's saying sorry and actually meaning it. By meaning it, I'm referring to saying sorry and actually changing for the better.

I came to this conclusion recently after following two tv shows this year that illustrate the point well. In Californication David Duchovny portrayed Hank Moody as a brilliant and funny but flawed writer who never seemed to be able to get his act together. Despite the love of a 12 year old daughter and the care of good friends who stood by him through thick and thin, Hank was never able to overcome himself. Particularly heartbreaking was one episode when his daughter could not hide her disappointment at being let down yet again, and told him in no uncertain terms that one day she's not going to care anymore. The episode ended with Hank lamenting that he needed to change, but at the same having no clue at all where to start.

Side note : Californication is quite blasphemous in certain episodes, and the show is generally quite profane and pushes the envelope on just about everything. Be warned.

The other show was House MD Season 3. Time and again House realises the pain he causes to people around him, but like Hank Moody, he seemed incapable of doing anything about it. House thrived on living in denial, self pity and avoiding the truth, and on certain episodes in Season 3 he is forced to face his real self. Particularly memorable was the episode where a rape victim chose to connect with him, and for once, House found his humanity again. Also outstanding were the episodes related to a policeman's attempts to prosecute him for drug abuse - House fell into a spiral of hurting more and more people as he refused to give up his addiction to painkillers.

But like Hank Moody, although House was able to on occasion say sorry, nothing changed.

We may gape with a mixture of fascination and wonder at the antics of these two man-childs, but we probably fail to realize that quite often, we are just like them, too.

Personally, I also feel quite mortified that often, I am no better than Hank or House in atoning for my actions.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Home (Part 1)

In a few months, it will be five years since I moved into my house in Puchong. This would be the longest I've ever stayed in a single place since I left Sibu in December 1988. Prior to leaving home I had stayed in Sibu for 8 years.

I went to study in KL in 1989, and rented a room in SS18 Subang Jaya from a couple. You should see Subang Jaya in those days - there was hardly any traffic and I used to walk to the college in the morning. Evenings were usually spent at the mamak stall in SS14. Unbelievably, roti canai used to cost 40 sen then.

I was back in Sibu again for 4 months before I went study in PJ, where I rented a room in Section 6 from an Indian family. They had a dog who still failed to recognize me even after I stayed there for more than a year.

I was then in Belfast for 4 years, during which I stayed in the uni hostel for 2 years, then apartment, then hostel again.

So, up to this point, from the 1988 my abodes went something like this:

Subang Jaya SS18/4 rented room (11 months)
Sibu (4 months)
PJ Section 6 rented room (14 months)
Sibu (3 months)
Belfast Hamilton Hall (9 months)
Sibu (3 months)
Belfast Sir Rowland Wright Hall (9 months)
Belfast Rugby Avenue (14 months)
Sibu (1 month)
Belfast Hamilton Hall (9 months)
Ballynahinch Chinese Restaurant (6 months)

When I came back to KL, I foolishly shipped almost all my stuff back from Belfast. Imagine dragging all those boxes through the following:-

Stephen Chung's House in Taman Supreme, KL (2 months)
Rented room in PJ Section 10 (5 months)
House in PJ Section 14 (1 month)

After that, together with my two brothers and a couple of other friends we found this place in PJ SS2/18 to call home for 4 and a half years. I then shifted to SS2/10 for another 2.5 years. After I got married, I stayed in PJ Section 17 for 5 months.

So, finally in February 2003, I moved to my current house in Puchong. 7 years after I left Belfast, I finally got to unpack my boxes from Belfast and put the stuff in my study room.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Reusable Shopping Bags

I was in Tesco Puchong a month ago, when I noticed that they were selling reusable shopping bags. The deal goes something like this - you buy a bag for RM 0.99, and you're supposed to use it for your future shopping at Tesco's instead of the usual plastic bags. When the bag gets damaged, you can actually get it exchanged for a new one, at no cost. Better yet, you can keep doing so for life!

I was quite excited and immediately bought one. My wife was not too keen, though. What are you gonna use to store the baby's diapers soiled with poo poo and for your dustbin linings, she asked. She had a point, we do reuse the normal plastic bags to store trash. But I reasoned with her that we don't usually use that many, if we can reduce our use of plastic bags we could make our own little difference to the environment.

Anyway, the first time I used it, I got curious stares. An elderly couple behind me in the queue asked me about it. The funniest thing was, the cashier totally ignored it and proceeded to put my groceries in the usual plastic bags. When I told her I wanted them in the reusable bag instead, she looked confused for a second, then obliged. I guess Tesco had not trained their staff yet on the bag.

Unfortunately, so far that was the last time I used it. I leave it on a shelf near the front door, but invariably I'll forget to grab it whenever I go shopping. Now I am planning to leave it in the car. Hopefully, I'll remember to grab it when I get out of the car at Tesco! :) I guess new habits need to be formed in order to use the bag effectively, which is why although I do see some people buying those bags, I seldom see them actually being used.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Malaysian Customer Service - A Short Story

For the longest time, I never had any expectations when it came to customer service in Malaysia. Big companies or small ones, it doesn’t matter. Most companies give next to nothing customer service. The only ones I could recall that left great impressions were Public Bank and Citibank.

However, over the last year I allowed myself to have higher expectations of my mobile provider Celcom. I was recently able to upgrade to a 3G SIM card without any hassle at all, and was also able to pay my phone bill by credit through their call center.

I have a love-hate relationship with Celcom for over 10 years (postpaid). You would have thought with high churn rates nowadays, they would have appreciated a customer like me more. After all, postpaid customers form but a minority (about 20%) of the 6 million customers Celcom has.

So when I was barred a few days ago for forgetting to settle my last bill, I wasn’t too concerned. Before I go any further, let me admit here that it was my own fault that I forgot to follow up on the bill earlier. But having said that, what happened was still galling for me.

I called them up on Thursday night to pay again by credit card through the phone. The lady on the other side told me to hold on. She came back and left me totally bewildered with an explanation about “tele-order” and “ pre-registration”, etc. Hey lady, I just want to pay my bill, I have credit card in my hand, ready to read you the details, just do the job and we’re done. You can’t do that. What do you mean I can’t do that? I did it the last round. Oh, the last round was a first time exception we give all customers. All subsequent payments can only be made after “pre-registration” blah blah blah.

I said no one told me before about this. She disagreed, according to her computer, it said I was given a form by mail but I didn’t send the form back. I told her, honest to God, I never received any form. I was put on hold again.

She came back with another explanation, the form was sent to my email and I never returned it. I checked my email, there was a form for auto-debit, but certainly not for pre-registration. Put on hold again.

She came back with yet another explanation – according to our policy, since you did not return the form, you are not allowed to pay by phone anymore. By this time 30 minutes has lapsed and I was getting impatient. Look lady, no one told me anything about what pre-registration before, and I certainly did not receive the form that you claim I did not return. So, can I please pay my bill?


At this point I was getting worked up and demanded to speak to a supervisor. She claims there’s no supervisor there.

Ok. I tried another tack. What if you fax me the pre-registration form now, and I fill it up, fax it back to you, then you process my payment? Can’t do that. Why? Because the department that processes the form only works during office hours. And anyway, you can’t send me the form anymore because we sent you the form before.

I demanded to speak to a supervisor again. By now, an hour has passed since I called. I finally spoke to a guy called Stephen. I started off with a little threat. Stephen, I know you work for VADS, don’t you? He gulped and replied yes. I said I knew people in VADS (which was true, by the way), I can get a complaint pinned on him if he didn’t handle my case right.

Stephen first gave me the same spiel that the lady gave. We are just following our process here, sir. I tried my last card – listen here, Stephen, put yourself in my shoes, assuming that what I had said earlier was true, aren’t I a victim of a mistake someone at VADS made a few months ago? And if you agree that this is the case, shouldn’t you figure out a way to help me rather than hide behind your rules and processes?

This finally seemed to do the trick. He told me he would call me back in 10 minutes. And he did. “I spoke to someone, and we agree an exception should be made for your case.” Finally! Stephen, if you’re reading this, you have my eternal gratitude. You’re the only one who used some common sense in this whole sorry saga.

So I managed to pay my bill that night, and Stephen assured me the line will be unbarred within 30 minutes. I went to bed a happy man.

The next day, I tried to use my phone and realized that the line is still barred. I called up again. This time a guy picked up. Summarized the previous situation to him. He checked. And came back with this classic answer “ The payment has been received, but it is still in progress, sir”. I was dumbstruck. How can a payment be received but still in progress, I hollered down the phone. Oh, the payment is received but it needs to be processed before we can unbar your phone. But I was told it would take 30 minutes after the payment is received! Errrm, no sir, it actually takes between 2 to 24 hours to process the payment. Can you call back again after the 24 hours is over?

Third call. Went through the usual explanations again. Was told again, “ The payment has been received, but it is still in progress, sir”. This is getting ridiculous. After some back and forth, finally, the penny dropped. Apparently one department records the payment. Another department looks at the payment and decides whether to unbar the line. And that department has not done its job.

I went for blunt force this time. Look, you have obviously received my payment, I CANNOT accept that you are not unbarring my line! The poor guy rushed off to speak to his supervisor. When he came back, “Sir, we have made an exception for your case, your line is now unbarred”. After three days and more than a total of 2 hours on the phone with these “customer service” agents, I finally got my line back.

A few conclusions I can draw from this whole incident. One, the agents have no clue what to do if anything deviates from the written rules and processes.

Secondly, the agents have obviously not been empowered to make any exceptions at all to special cases (except under extreme duress from customers like me). Do you know what is the Nordstrom (a large department store chain in USA) rule of working? Use your good judgment in all situations. There are no additional rules. If everything is just about rules and processes, Celcom/VADS might as well just use robots to run the call centre, it would have been cheaper and less aggravating.

Thirdly, in this present time where Business Process Reengineering (BPR) is already a 14-year-old concept and most companies have done away with silo type work processes, it was amazing to find that this was still the case in the incident above. The first lady I spoke to even said “I can’t call you sir, we’re inbound, outbound is another department” when I asked her to call me back. Classic.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Between Safety and Freedom

As my daughter learned to crawl and stand recently, me and my wife are beginning to face the dilemma all parents face at different stages of their children's growth - how to balance between protecting the child and letting her explore the world around her.

A typical day in our house would go something like this:-

  • put her in the playpen (lasts between 5 to 15 minutes, 30 if you're lucky)
  • put her on the walker (15 minutes at most)
  • put her on the play area which, unfortunately, is not fenced out
  • make her sit next to you on the sofa
  • make her sit on the baby chair (the plastic one used for feeding) and give her some toys
  • carry her around (her favourite, obviously)
  • rotate through all the previous options
We used to be able to also put her on our bed, but nowadays she moves so fast we are worried we won't be able to catch her on time if she decides to check out the edges of the bed.

Add to all these the fact that she now grabs and puts in her mouth everything and anything, and we have our hands full taking care of her whenever we are at home :)

Although we look forward to her walking soon, that will also bring another new set of challenges. We will have to make sure all sharp edged furniture in the house are properly padded, and all electrical points covered properly.

Now I am beginning to understand why parenting is such a big responsibility.

Down and Out

Been down with a nasty throat infection in the last few days. This is the second time in the last few months that I had to take MC, feeling a bit embarrassed about it.

When I was in my first job, it was a good four years before I took my first MC. Alas, there was no award for such an exemplary record.

As I grew older, my MC's averaged about 1 a year, nowadays its more like twice or three times a year. Sigh, guess I have to take better care of myself, my immune system is not what it used to be.

Either that, or the bugs are getting stronger. For the throat infection, the doctor originally gave me some normal antibiotic, but as I got worse, I went back to him again and was given a generic brand of Cefixime to kill off the bug. I googled it up and found out that it was originally called Suprax, made by Wyeth. Apparently Cefixime should only be given if the doctor strongly believes that the infection is very serious and normal antibiotics are not working. If Cefixime is prescribed for every bug we get, the bugs may mutate and become resistant to it.

Thank God for my case Cefixime seems to be working, though I was a little concerned it may not work anymore in the future.

I also have to stay away from my daughter for a few days, lest I pass the bug to her :(

Monday, October 22, 2007

Happiness is ....

....listening to your daughter playing happily......

....seeing your daughter's contented smile.....

Smart Tunnel - Nightmare Scenario

Just before the Smart tunnel opened earlier this year, I was chatting to a friend about it, and he told me that he would never use it because of the "Daylight" nightmare scenario. Daylight is a movie starring Sylvester Stallone which was about, you guessed it, a flooded tunnel.

I laughed off his fears, and thought the guys operating the tunnel had too much at stake letting that happen.

Well, guess I was wrong after all. On Tuesday 16 October 2007, the approach road to the tunnel flooded, raising the possibility of the "Daylight" scenario. What made the incident infuriating was the finger pointing after the fact, instead of showing concern and trying to find a solution.

I estimate that during peak hours, there's probably a good few hundred vehicles in the tunnel, and the real possibility of the nightmare scenario happening is too horrifying to contemplate.

Granted, the flooding happened to a cause external to the tunnel, but I would have expected the people involved to take the issue seriously and try to find a solution urgently rather than start the blame game. After all, not just the company involved, but the whole nation has a lot to lose should the unthinkable happen and lives are lost.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

You'll Never Walk Alone

This morning on my way to work I heard Gerry and The Pacemakers version of the song again on my CD player, and felt compelled to look it up on Wikipedia. I've heard the song countless times ever since my younger brother told me it was Liverpool FC's song (as you can guess, he's a die hard fan), don't ask me why today of all days :)

You'll Never Walk Alone is one of those songs that seldom fails to stir the emotions of those who hear it, no matter whether its sung by singers with soaring vocals or hoarse football fans.

As mentioned in Wikipedia, the song as it was used in the musical Carousel was meant to comfort after the death of a character, which explains the mournful first part of the song. Later, the song segues into a defiant exhortation and shout of encouragement. By the time the singer reaches the line "And You'll Never Walk Alone" a myriad of emotions goes through the listener, and more often than not, tears flow freely.

The lyrics of the song also plays a big part in its power. They seem to apply to a lot of situations that most of us face every now and then, and listening to the song usually reminds us of the things we've been going through.

You can hear Gerry and The Pacemaker's version here, Ray Quinn's version here, and Jordin Sparks version here.

You'll Never Walk Alone

When you walk through the storm Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm

There's a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart

And you'll never walk alone

You'll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone

You'll never walk alone

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Desktop Peek

Ashlight tagged me into doing this recently. When she mentioned "no cheating", it was like being caught with a dirty house when friends suddenly popped by to visit :P

The background is a photo of the lake next to UTAR in Kampar, which I visited with some friends recently. As you can see, recently I've been too lazy to put all the downloaded files in their proper folders.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The True Cause of Malaysian Traffic Jams

The other day, while having lunch at the office, conversation inevitably turned to one of us Malaysians' favourite topics - traffic jams. My boss commented that he noticed that in LA, California, traffic is heavy but usually moving, while in Malaysia, things often come to a standstill. He believes the reason for this is the stupidity of Malaysian drivers who, i. don't follow the traffic rules, and ii. don't use their common sense.

That got me thinking. Is it really true that everything would be okay if all Malaysians could just get some common sense (which is not so common after all) into their heads? Here are a few common causes of traffic jams that I can think of:-

1. Accidents - one is all it takes on a highway to make everyone late by a few hours. I was amazed at how people can get into serious accidents in very slow traffic, until one day I found myself day dreaming and almost banged into the car in front of me. So, 1-0 to stupidity.

2. Giving way - Some roads are designed such that traffic from two roads are supposed to merge gradually. But more often that not, cars on both lanes refuse to give way. The result? Deadlock on both lanes. 2-0 to stupidity and lack of common sense.

3. Construction work - For some reason, city councils and police see it fit to let construction workers who have ZERO experience in traffic management to block the lanes and to direct traffic. The result? Frayed tempers and rude gestures as drivers pass by the offending stretch. 2-1.

4. Floods - Despite building world class airports and buildings, apparently building effective drainage is beyond us. Or rather, it is folks who dumps all sorts of rubbish into the drains, resulting in flash floods galore whenever it pours. 2-2.

5. Cutting queues - instead of lining up on the correct lane early, most folks prefer to jump to the front of the queue and force some poor driver to give way. Stupidity in the lead again, 3-2.

6. Lane switching - this is a very strange phenomenon that I have not yet fully understood. For some reason, if the roads ahead present multiple choices, inevitably people get confused and snarl up the traffic. I guess I could blame it on poorly placed signages, so 3-3 it is then.

7. People who slow down to stare at accidents - this is a classic Malaysian behaviour. Even if the accident is only blocking one lane on a four lane highway, traffic on BOTH sides of the highway would come to a standstill. 4-3, in the lead and pulling away!

8. Car breakdowns - Okay, there's an element of chance in this one, but on more than a few occasions I saw the highway patrol pouring petrol into the stalled car. I'll be fair and not give any score for this one. Still 4-3.

9. VIP entourages - On my home via Tun Razak-Sg Besi one day, I encountered THREE entourages, each with its own fleet of siren blaring traffic police. 4-4!

Okay, after 9 causes I'm beginning to get depressed, so I've decided to stop here. But based on my unscientific findings, I have to say that it could indeed be true that if we all gained some common sense tomorrow our traffic jams would be reduced by 50% :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Smart Tunnel

Since moving to Puchong four years ago, I've seen many changes to the roads and traffic system around the Klang Valley.

Some were well intentioned but flawed, such as the Sprint Penchala Link and the NPE, some actually made things worse, etc. But one change that really made a huge positive difference was the Smart Tunnel, which opened a few months ago.

Traffic along the Seremban highway all the way to the city centre suddenly became much smoother, but everyone sort of took things for granted, until the tunnel's temporary one week closure recently. Suddenly it was back to the bad old days again.

By measure of distance alone, the LDP-Kesas-Seremban Highway-Tun Razak way is supposed to be one of the quickest ways to KL from Puchong, but no thanks to crazy traffic planning by DBKL, things get really stuck around Chan Sow Lin. The Smart Tunnel allowed some of the traffic stuck there to bypass the jam and turn up at either Sultan Ismail or Tun Razak.

I've timed myself a number of times, and was amazed to find that despite departing from Bandar Wawasan (where Cynthia's baby sitter lives) at around 8 am, I usually manage to get to KLCC by 8.40 am, plus or minus 10 minutes. Of course, there's the RM 4.20 toll (2.20 at Kesas, 2.00 at Smart Tunnel) to worry about, but if you car pool with someone it really makes sense.

Despite criticisms about its somewhat dangerous narrow winding path and uneven surface, I credit the Smart Tunnel with making one of the biggest impact on my quality of life in the last few years. Thanks to it, I get one whole extra hour in the morning to sleep, shower, etc :)

Now that I am working in TPM, the commute is even shorter, but if I ever need to get to KL, the Smart Tunnel would be my preferred choice.

Just in case you're wondering, I neither work for Gamuda/MMC nor own any of their shares :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Power of 4 (Part Deux)

If this looks vaguely familiar to you, that's because back in March 2006 I've done a similar post based on another tag. Anyway, after Ponytales tagged me again I figured I should have enough material to do another different one, so here goes:-

4 Jobs I've had in my life

  • Dishwasher - my mission, which I had to accept because I didn't have enough money then, was to wash not only dishes at a Chinese restaurant in Belfast, but also anything that's disgusting and dirty in the whole kitchen. Luckily, the job came with gloves, a free meal, and much needed $$ :)
  • Programmer - Doing COBOL wasn't what I had in mind when I graduated, but COBOL it was back in 1996. Luckily after 1 year, my work gained enough recognition for me to be moved to Windows programming.
  • Project Manager - I sucked at it for three years, luckily I had a mentor who put me on the right path. Thanks Yoda, er, I mean, Allen.
  • Computer Center Supervisor - did this part time at my uni's computer center, again to find extra cash for beer, er, I mean, hostel fees. Perk of the job - even the pretty chicks have to talk to you when their user account's locked up.

4 of my favourite foods
  • Mamee dried noodle snack - my wife thinks its very unhealthy, but I just can't stop eating it, especially if I'm in the middle of a good book or the latest Empire.
  • Salted Egg Prawns - the Chung Wah restaurant (Puchong) version is the best. Whoever thought of combining Salted Eggs with big juicy prawns is a genius.
  • Toast with Kaya and Butter - although simple, a really good one really sends you into ecstasy. My favourite - old kopitiam at Port Dickson town.
  • Chee Cheong Fun - the Teluk Intan one really justifies its reputation, especially when taken fresh. The SS2 pasar malam one is a pale imitation, but still good value.

4 countries I have been to on vacation
  • Thailand - Chiangmai. Combining the best of Thailand's shopping with a laid back environment and natural beauty, Chiangmai is simply the best place to be in Thailand.
  • China - Fuzhou, Xiamen. Went there last year with my whole family, on a pilgrimage to our ancestral home. Got to see first hand how people really live over there, instead of just popping into the usual touristy places.
  • UK - Belfast. Finally managed to visit my old alma mater again in 2005, and was glad to see the city booming after peace finally broke out.
  • Kuwait. Not really on vacation there, but managed to squeeze in some sightseeing while posted there last year. Desert, Kuwait Towers, more desert. And some classy shopping centres.
4 places I would rather be right now
  • having coffee at Kluang Station, 1U.
  • in a warm bath with a good book.
  • in the cinema, watching a really good movie.
  • in bed. Its almost midnight as I'm writing this!
4 friends to tag
Most bloggers that I know have been tagged during the last round, so I shall not tag anyone this time :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Senior Moment

I had a senior moment recently. I had my earphones on at the office yesterday when a colleague approached me for something.

After speaking to her, I couldn't for the life of me locate the earphones. I looked under the table, on the floor, in my bags. Nothing. Its as if it just vanished.

In the end I gave up and assumed the earphones lost.

This morning I came to work, I immediately noticed it. Stuck to the underside of my chair. How on earth it got there I don't know. And how I managed to miss it after so many rounds of searching I also don't know.

I had to conclude that I was getting old. Either that or Harry Potter decided to play a trick on me :)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

10 Years of 013

I received a call a few days ago from a friend who was working in UK, I've lost touch with him for nine years.

My first reaction when I got the call was "How did you get this number?". His reaction to that was, "I'm surprised you're still using this number! Almost all our other friends had their numbers changed!".

This got me thinking about 1997. That was the year I had my first mobile phone, and being very lowly paid then, I opted for Emartel 013.

Being one of the few who was using 013 wasn't easy. During the era of before inter-operator cooperation, sending sms to friends on other services were impossible. That caused a lot of resentment among my circle of friends (who were mostly on 012 or 016) who had to bear higher charges of calling me.

On top of that, Emartel wasn't doing well, so coverage wasn't very good. That changed when Telekom took over, renamed it TMTouch and later merged it with Celcom. Suddenly, I was the guy with the best coverage, hehe. Those days, using 012 had a certain snob factor to it, so I couldn't resist rubbing it in when friends on 012 couldn't get coverage whenever they're back in Sarawak, my home state.

As time goes by, almost all of my friends moved to 012 prepaid, with a few sticking to 016. My circle of 013 friends and colleagues never increased. In addition, with the introduction of new pricing schemes, from a financial point of view it became increasingly illogical to stick to 013. But still I continued to use the service.

Things finally made sense when Celcom introduced the Minutes Plan. Overnight my phone bill plunged by 40%.

Even today friends tease me about my loyalty to 013. I guess it was more laziness and the inconvenience of informing people of the change that held me back rather than loyalty.

But next year, the government is planning to introduce number portability to the industry. For the first time, one can change service providers without having to change the phone number, so I can be 013 but actually using Maxis, for example.

So, would I change?

The answer is maybe. If I do change, it probably won't be 012 - even after all these years, I can't shake off my perception of 012's snob factor :)

I have been rather taken in by 016 lately, for a few reasons -- the endearing Yellow Coverage Fellow, their amazing ability to take on Maxis and win market share from it, and my admiration for their work culture.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

RIP Loga

The recent passing on of Loga of Alley Cats brought back memories of one of his haunting songs - Suara Kekasih. I remember the song from a school concert back in 1987.

Hadiran ombak membelai pantai
Tiada putusnya percintaan itu
Hembusnya bayangmu menyejukkan
Tapi tiada terhenti dahaga
Kerinduan suara kekasih
Membelai hatiku
Suara kekasih
Membasuh lukaku

Tibanya sinar bulan di laut
Dengan ribuan alunan kemesraan
Membawa kenangan yang berlalu
Dengan ribuan warna keemasan
Suara kekasih
Membelai jiwaku
Suara kekasih
Yang menyejukkan ku

Terdengar suaramu yang suci
Pabila terkejut dari mimpi
Ku manyakinkan suara itu
Memanggil daku dengan harapan
Tapi sayangnya alunan ombak
Yang memecah diri sangkaku
Suara kekasih
Yang memanggil daku
Suara kekasih
Di malam yang indah

Hear the song here.


My wife finally went back to work a few days ago, after having taken care of Cynthia full time for almost 3 months.

A common discovery shared among my friends who also had babies recently is how taking care of the little ones had helped to make them become more mature and patient, and we are no different as well.

In this aspect I have to take my hat off to my wife. Throughout these 3 months she showed tremendous patience, much more than I ever thought possible. While my own patience would run very thin after one hour trying to comfort a cranky Cynthia at night, hers would be stretched but still intact even after six hours of on-off crying and feeding and cradling and crying again, from midnight till the dawn.

Now I realize why friends who are mothers look so serene and calm after they had kids -- they have mastered the virtue of patience :)

I can only look at myself in shame and realize that I still have a lot to learn.

I'm Back

Sorry for the lack of new entries, this time I have a good excuse -- apparently Google's new-fangled Spam Blog Blocker felt my blog was suspicious enough for them to block it.

I spent the last few nights looking through my last entries to see if there was anything that warranted the honour of their attention, but I just can't figure out how entries about my new born daughter, a friend's recent death and some thoughts about my country and traffic would constitute spam.

Okay lah, I know my entries are not as great or readable as some of the "great" Malaysian bloggers out there, but surely not so bad that they have to deem it rubbish, i.e. spam? :)

Anyway, to give credit where its due, Google responded swiftly and helpfully when I complained and I got my blog unblocked within 24 hours. That's five times faster than the response I got from Astro when I complained about reception problems last year.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Digital Ghosts

A dear friend who was my classmate during secondary school passed away recently.

He was an avid blogger who kept 5 blogs going at the same time. His sudden passing was a shock to all his friends, myself included. He had a shoutout box, and friends from all over left condolence messages on it.

It was quite a surreal feeling every time I visit his blog again. I was half expecting a new post to pop up, saying that it was all a mistake and he's still alive and well. But of course, it just stayed static, a snapshot in time of his life.

I've always wondered what happens to the stuff created online whenever someone passes away. The IM id's, the email accounts, the blogs, the photo archives. They are all remnants of a life, capturing all the laughter, happiness, sadness, fears, hopes of that person.

What makes me sad is that it will all never be recovered. Without a password, friends and relatives cannot access the data, and after a period of inactivity the companies that own the accounts will delete them.

Even the next of kin cannot request for access - I read a heart-rending story a few years back of an American soldier's family futile attempt to get Yahoo to let them access his email account after he was killed in Iraq.

That's the sad thing about our world today - so much of the stuff people care about are stored online, and when they pass on, those stuff are gone forever. No faded photos, no folded letters, just a bunch of bits that gets wiped out when the time is up.

Rest in peace, Frankie, you will always remain in our hearts.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Been carpooling with a friend recently due to my wife's maternity leave. With nothing better to do while stuck in jams, we ended up griping about everything under the sun, from corruption to waste of public funds to lack of public transport to, well, just about everything that is wrong in this dear country of ours.

At the same time, we also shared about our travels for work over the last five years, and gradually, we came to the realization that, hey, we are quite blessed after all compared to a lot of other countries.

So, despite all the faults of Malaysia, here's a list of things I feel we should be grateful for:-

1. It is still dirt cheap to live here.
Despite the rising cost of stuff in the last few years, you'll be surprised how much you really need in order to live in this country, if you know where to look and you are willing to make certain lifestyle adjustments. I had been shopping with my mom-in-law every Sat at the neighbourhood pasar malam for the last one month, and believe it or not, a family of three can eat for a whole week with less than RM 100 worth of groceries (vegetables, fish and fruits). For comparison? A bunch of vegetables in Dubai costs roughly RM 7 at Carrefour, while I get it for RM 1 at the pasar malam :) Me and my wife were spending at least RM 800 per month eating out prior to her maternity leave.

2. It is still a relatively safe country.
True, snatch thefts are still rampant in some areas and car thefts, rape and robbery happen far too often than we would've liked. But at least you don't have to hire bodyguards to follow you wherever you go, which is what happened to my carpooling friend when he worked in the Philippines (his company was kind enough to arrange the guards). How often do we worry about our security when we go about our daily business, apart from taking the usual precautions? If you really reflect on it, its much less than you think.

3. Opportunities abound for those who are willing to work hard.
I hate to say this, but many of us are spoiled. We had hardworking parents who attended to our every need and a environment thats been relatively free of war, strife, natural disasters, etc. So, most of us get to go to school/college/uni, and after we graduate there are plenty of jobs and business opportunities waiting for us. Think about it. If you're willing to work hard and take some risks, who or what is stopping you in this country?

So, whilst we certainly can't claim to be the best country in the world to live in, I would say we still have plenty to be grateful for.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sleep Like A Baby

Whoever coined the phrase "sleep like a baby" obviously never had a baby, because after 4 weeks plus with Cynthia, its obvious there is no such thing as a fixed sleeping pattern for babies.

One day she'll be well behaved and sleep, well, like a baby for 4 to 6 hours at a stretch, and the next, she'll wake up every 40 minutes. And then there's all other variations in between, e.g. sleep for 2 hours, 1 hour, etc.

I decided just before my wife gave birth that I'll sleep in the guest room for the first few months, so I was spared all the sleep interruptions, but my poor wife and mother-in-law bore the brunt of Cynthia's erratic sleep habits. One night I came back and found both exhausted and sleepy - they had barely slept more than 1 hour at a stretch for the last 24 hours.

There were also no end of tips and tricks from friends and colleagues on how to get our baby to settle into a longer and more predictable sleep routine.

Thank goodness some of the tips do seem to work, her sleep patterns has settled somewhat in the last few days, but occasionally we still get zombie nights.

I'll be moving back to the master bedroom in a few weeks time, hopefully Cynthia would have improved even more then :)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Where I Would Like To Go… (Rather Than Sitting Here at Home)

Been too busy to blog much (you all know why lah), but since my good friend Simon took the trouble to tag me to do this, I thought I'll indulge him on this one :)

Since most people already know of my penchant for Ireland & NZ, I'll go for .....Austria!

I think almost everyone above 30 must have been captivated by the fantastic mountain scenery of The Sound of Music when they were younger, and I was no exception. But what really did it for me was a movie and a tv series -- Before Sunrise and Band of Brothers.

In the former, Vienna looked absolutely gorgeous and romantic as the two main characters wandered through it in a day and a night. Watch it and you'll find yourself itching to take the next flight out there.

In the later, in the final episode the weary band of brothers finally got to take some well deserved R&R in the most amazing surroundings of the Austrian countryside. Watch out for the final scene of the soldiers playing baseball amidst the towering mountains of the Alps.


forestfyre - well travelled lady, wonder what's next for her :)
ashlight - armed with a DSLR and a healthy appetite, another lady who's been goin' places
jyon - hey, there's gotta be more than just Bangkok! :)
egg-e - you could use a break! :)
Loon - wonder what is our friend's dream destination...


**Start Copy**

Proposition : Where do you want to go Next, OUTSIDE OF YOUR COUNTRY, for tourism, work , study, whatever.

Requirements: Find some info about the place, itinerary etc, pics if possible so you get MORE Traffic coming in, and maybe some people can find somewhere to go to. Excludes your NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOUR, ie Singapore,Malaysia,Brunei, a country that borders yours.You must register for MyBloglog so we can blogwalk ah…..get it?

Quantity : FIVE PEOPLE.

Tag Mode : Chain Link. 15 of them.You leave 15 people and their DEEP LINK of their Blog Name and TAGGED POST and hit out for five more. So it will look like

Simon living it up in Hong Kong

Laundryamah having fun with Hyun Bin in Korea

Azrin going Down Under

MaRLinda in Disneyland Paris

Athira and her Balamory Antics

Msau to Japan

Shoppingmum to Europe

Angeleyes off to Bora-Bora

Giddy Tiger snorkelling in The Maldives

Jess to Europe

Mybabybay wants to go Round The World

Immomsdaughter visit World Heritage New Zealand

Just My Thoughts whale watching at Monterey Bay

Bubba Stuff lomancin, in Tuscany, Italy

**Add in the blog you got the tag from and tagged post.** (In this case, for example, you should add :Patrick dreaming of Austria”)

Extra Rules: you cannot Tag another person who has performed the Tagging Rights to Travel. Check yr commentators.

You MUST PASS this tag within 7 days of receiving it , or lose a day’s worth of Blog Revenue or $10 to charity. Can?Makes it interesting anyway.So no Lazy Tags running about, and yeah, eventually, there will be less than a 1:3 chance you can’t tag that someone. And pay those people in the list a visit, you never know if you can pinch / recycle some ideas for your next entry!

**End Copy**

Monday, March 12, 2007

Baby Cynthia

Being the last of a gang at church who were expecting babies, we had been hearing all sorts of stories about the birth process and the trials and tribulations of taking care of the little one.

When it finally came to our turn, we were sort of mentally prepared for what was about to happen. My wife packed two Reader's Digest and I packed 3 books, expecting a long wait at the hospital. But praise God, after just 5 hours of labor, baby Cynthia came into the world.

I was sort of expecting the hard part comes later, and indeed it did. On the first night she was back, Cynthia absolutely refused to sleep except when being carried. We all woke up bleary eyed and wondering how we were going to cope for the next few months.

But the joy is indeed as all my friends described -- nothing beats the joy of cradling the little one in your arms, all helpless and lost, looking to you to feed her, guide her, protect her and be her all until she grows her wings and finally flies away one day.

Monday, March 05, 2007


The most jammed up day of the week is not Monday, as most of us would believe, but in fact, Tuesday. I've been observing this curious pattern for a while and wondering why this so.

My favourite theory is that most people find it hard to drag themselves back to work after the weekend and some decided to call in emergency leave, sick leave or whatever other leave you can think of in order to get another day of bliss. The Monday Blues syndrome, so to speak.

Another possibility is some people taking an extended weekend due to traveling outstation. Or could it be some people getting up late from watching EPL matches the night before?

Whatever it is, it might be a good idea to buck the trend and take Tuesdays off instead. That way, you save yourself the stress of going through the nightmare traffic and instead enjoy an early midweek break!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Only Yesterday

With the imminent birth of our first daughter, we didn't get to go back hometown during CNY. So, we ended up catching up on movies instead :)

A really memorable one we watched was a Japanese anime called "Omohide Poro Poro", or "Only Yesterday". It was a really moving tale of a 27 year old lady reflecting on her life through flashbacks to the time when she was a 10 year old girl. Through those reflections she began to understand herself again, and provided her with a context to understand the choices she faces in adulthood.

Apart from the moving story, the movie itself was also gorgeous to behold, not in the Pixar kind of way, but sort of like looking at a beautiful watercolour painting.

It's hard to describe the feelings that the movie evoked, but suffice to say it really made my holiday.

And the ending. What an ending it was. When the credits started to appear, I thought I was gonna get one of those ambiguous endings, but instead a Japanese version of the song "The Rose" started, and what followed was magical. You can see it on Youtube here, but be warned, without watching the whole movie, you might not understand it.

While hunting for the lyrics for "The Rose", I was dismayed to find out that Westlife did a cover of it last year, and quite a number of other singers have done covers of it as well. But no matter, to really appreciate the song, get hold of the original Bette Midler version :)

The Rose

Some say love it is a river
that drowns the tender reed
Some say love it is a razor
that leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love it is a hunger
an endless aching need
I say love it is a flower
and you it's only seed

It's the heart afraid of breaking
that never learns to dance
It's the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance
It's the one who won't be taken
who cannot seem to give
and the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live

When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been too long
and you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed
that with the sun's love
in the spring
becomes the rose

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Working Girl

One of my favourite movies of all time is Working Girl, which I first saw just after I finished college. I remember I was supposed to catch a flight back to Sarawak that night, and after a whole day of packing, I decided to just go and catch a movie. Back in 1989, there was a cinema in Ss15 Subang Jaya that specializes in showing reruns.

I just finished my pre-u studies, and I knew I was going to do badly in the exams. While my college mates were busy choosing which uni they wanted to go to, I was wondering what my dad will decide to do with me.

When I came out of the cinema, I knew I wanted to try again. And my dad did indeed give me another chance, which I am very grateful till this day.

The theme song "A River Runs Through It" was my constant companion when I re-sat for my pre-u the following year. Even today the song never fails to raise goose pimples whenever I hear it.

Let The River Run

We're coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
let all the dreamers
wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
the morning lights
the streets that meet them,
and sirens call them on
with a song.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We're coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
stand on a star
and blaze a trail of desire
through the dark'ning dawn.

It's asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
the sky is the color of blue
you've never even seen
in the eyes of your lover.

Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
let all the dreamers
wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Windows Vista? Nah....

At the time of writing a worldwide campaign is underway to enlighten folks everywhere on the delights of Vista, M'soft's much delayed OS.

For those of you who balk at the price tag or do not have a PC spec'ed high enough to run it, you can actually get a feel for it by installing the Vista Transformation Pack. I tried it for a few weeks, and, well, the only thing I felt would make my life easier is the Aero glass effect. Sometimes I need to refer to another document while I'm typing, and by overlaying the two documents on top of each other, I find that I could get a lot more done than if I tile the documents vertically. Alright, those of you who own 19 inch LCD monitors, you can stop snickering now.

The gadgets sidebar concept is not a new one, I've seen its potential since the days of Borland Sidekick, but unfortunately to date no one has done a good job of implementing it. Call me when you get some really useful gadgets to dock to the sidebar, will you? A clock to tell the time? That's what I wear watches for, mate.

Apart from eye candy, from what I read there's not much else that would compel me to rush out and buy one. What I really want from a new OS would be these:-

  1. Much faster boot up time. On average, it takes a minute for my XP log in screen to come up, and another good 2 minutes to get everything started up after I've logged in. The Amstrad CPC 6128 I used 20 years ago booted up in 2 seconds flat, including monitor warm up time. Come on, after 20 years and umpteenth generations of Windows OS's, you can't get this fixed?
  2. A much easier way of getting to my stuff. I have a lot of stuff on both my home and office PC's, and I do mean a lot. Getting to them is just a pain. Sure, I can create shortcuts and there's the Recent Documents list, but its still difficult to quickly zoom in on stuff that I do not access frequently. Google Desktop also helps to a certain extent, but I will hail the day when I can get to any stuff I want in 5 seconds flat.
  3. Easier way of setting up things. It still requires a postgraduate degree to get things set up. Don't believe me? Pop quiz: Why can't I connect to a Wifi network at my branch office when everyone else had no problems? Answer: because the network uses the same name as the Wifi network at the HQ, therefore the system tries to automatically reconnect using the HQ Wifi's settings, which was saved to the notebook's Wifi Connection properties. Now how many of us are gonna be able to figure that one out?
August 1995: I went out to get a copy of The Times in a small town called Ballynahinch in Northern Ireland, and was bewildered when the newsagent refused to accept my money. "It's free." Huh? After looking at the paper for a few seconds it dawned on me that it was Windows 95 launch day. Microsoft had bought up the entire print run of The Times on that day. I was filled with much excitement and anticipation, sure that this new fangled OS would let me do wonderful productive things as I start my IT career. 11 and a half years later, much has changed, and much still stayed the same.

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