Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Visit to Anfield

One of the highlights of our recent UK trip was definitely the visit to Anfield, the home of the Liverpool football club.  Despite being an Arsenal fan (!), its hard not to be moved by the rich history and heritage of LFC.  My friend Siva and his wife kindly treated us to a tour of the stadium :)


Outside the impressive entrance to the Museum and Tour Centre

At the main stand of the stadium, with the Kop visible at the back

The team dressing room - imagine the words of the famous managers that used to echo around here :)

Sitting in Rafa's spot, now occupied by Roy Hodgson

The tin in front definitely reserved for Fergie when he comes visiting!

The famous sign that visiting teams see when they come out to the pitch

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


In 12 years of driving, I've had my fair share of breakdowns, but they are often few and far in between.

But in a period of 4 months this year, I had three car breakdowns, which should count as a record of some sort.

The first was in April, when my car battery went dead near a friend's house in Serdang.  AAM, which was usually fast and reliable, came after 4 hours.

Then our rental car suffered a snapped fan belt somewhere in Donegal, Ireland during our recent UK trip.  It was a surreal experience, being towed back to Belfast on the night England played their most dire World Cup match ever (no prizes for guessing which one :) )

Last Saturday seemed like the usual, albeit slightly packed weekend.  Fetched the wife to see a lawyer, then a doctor (!).  Met an old friend at Sunway Pyramid.  Then down to KL Pavilion to meet my classmate to discuss a class assignment.  This was followed by a productive trip to PC Fair at KLCC :)

I decided to go back via the Maju Expressway, exiting at Putrajaya then heading towards the Nusaputra Interchange.  About 2 km from the interchange, I suddenly heard a pop.  Then I felt the car wobble.  Then the dreaded klunk klunk sound.  I had blown out my left rear tyre.

No problem, I thought.  I called my wife to let her know I had a puncture. Took out the spare tyre and the jack.  Getting the car jacked up was easy enough, but trying to take off the wheel nuts was another matter.  As I put both feet on the wheel brace to turn the nuts, self doubt began to creep in.  They were not even budging, let alone turn!

10 minutes later and drenched in sweat, I weighed my options.  My phone battery had died, so I couldn't call anyone.  Suddenly I felt alone and isolated, despite the vehicles zooming past me.

For some reason, I thought running back home via the Nusaputra Interchange was the best option and set out.  But a short distance later, a car stopped and the guy asked me where I was going.  After explaining matters, he offered to change the tyre for me.  Halleluiah!  But then came another twist.  After loosening three of the nuts, the last one just wouldn't budge.  The guy took out a walkie talkie and explained that he was speaking to someone at the Putrajaya toll, about 3 km away.  Then he said help was on the way and I should stay put in the car.

And so I waited.  And waited.

Finally, I decided help wasn't coming.  The thought of trying to wave someone down never crossed my mind.  I just thought Malaysians would be too suspicious to stop.

So I ran to the Putrajaya toll.  I knew they had a PLUS Ronda that can help.  An old man met me at the toll office, and agreed to send the PLUS Ronda, but warned that it could take a while.  I ran back to the car.

As I waited in the car for PLUS Ronda to come, I suddenly realized that its been a long while since I really had nothing to do.  I mean really nothing.  Nothing to read, nothing to watch, no one to call, nothing to surf.  Just me and nothing.

As I sat there taking in this unfamiliar sensation, I realized its been a long while since I prayed without any distractions.  And so as the words tumbled out, my thoughts began to gain exceptional clarity.

PLUS Ronda came 45 minutes later, and two nice gentlemen worked together to undo the stubborn nut.

As I sat in my living room after some food and a cold drink later, I reflected on the experience in the car.  To be helpless before the Lord and without any distractions is indeed a rare experience, and something that we seldom voluntarily create for ourselves.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I've Got HSBB!

It all started when my phone line went down due to lightning, and TM took ages to fix it.  Strangely enough, my Streamyx was still running.

So, when TM announced that Unifi is now available in Puchong, I bit the bullet and rushed to the nearest TM shop to apply for it.

The turnaround was very fast - they called back within 3 days to make an appointment, and the installation was done within one week of application.

But be warned - the installation is quite lengthy, so be prepared to apply for leave.  Four guys came to my house at 9.30 am and got to work.  First, they pulled a fibre optic cable from the telephone pole to the back of my house.

Next, they installed the fibre termination box.  Due to the delicate nature of fibre optic cables, up to this point the installation had taken 3 hours.

After that, they drilled a hole in the wall and pulled through the cable into my study room.  They then set up the Broadband Termination Unit, the Wireless Router and the IPTV Set Top Box.  Since this is during a promotion period, the BTU, Wireless Router, DECT Phone and IPTV Box are all FOC.  A good deal!

And I have HSBB!  So, now I have - a 5 Mbps line, a new phone line (I get a new number), and extra channels to watch on TV.  They also have Video on Demand, although the selection is limited at the moment.  For now, you get 100 points per month free to spend on VOD - a movie is 10 points for 24 hours.

How fast is the line?  I got the entire season of Glee in 4.5 hours :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

London Trip - 1

Those of you who follow Simon's blog must by now heard the full account of our trip to London and gay Paree. Here are the links if you haven't: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

So, just a few extra thoughts and pics from our end :)

Day 1, we headed out from Hounslow during rush hour, so it was a bit cramped during the journey. But as I pointed out to Mei Yan, in London folks have an unspoken understanding of how they need to behave, from letting people get out to moving to the centre of the carriage to accommodate more passengers to standing on the right on escalators (ok, that one is a written rule), so on the whole, it was still pleasant enough for us.

We had been praying hard for clear weather, as I pointed out to Simon that British weather is two third grey skies and one third sunny. I took everyone on the route I went myself back in 2005, i.e. from Waterloo station towards Westminster Bridge, then northwards to St James Park and Buckingham Palace. It was cloudy when we came out of Waterloo, but lo and behold, the sky became more blue!


Simon and Wai Yin relaxing by the Thames!

Our first dinner at a pub in central London

Crossing Westminster Bridge

Big Ben on a clear day

Cheeky squirrel at St James Park

En route to the changing of the guard

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sibu - Stand Up and Be Counted

Caution - long rambling post ahead :)

For as long as I can recall, the people I share a place called home with had always had an independent streak. Coming to Sibu out from the famine and poverty in China, the first generation of Sibu folks knew they had to rely on themselves to build new lives in a remote jungle in the middle of Borneo island.

And build they did. From barbers to tailors to farmers, each one toiled patiently and ceaselessly, was thrifty with their money and gradually accumulated wealth for their next generation. They ensured their children have the best education, and any old folk you meet in town today will probably have at least one child who went to university, some even to overseas.

Most of them were also God fearing, the pioneers of the town having been in contact with Christianity.

And so, they owed no one for their lives, and apparently someone forgot to tell BN that in the last few weeks. Gifts and grants are all well and fine, but to tell Sibu folks to be grateful (?!) and to return the favour was just laughable politics.

Sure, there were issues that needed the government's intervention, such as flooding and land lease renewal premiums, but they had been disappointed by the government so many times in the past few decades that when the goodies finally came, there was just a muted response.

In the recent vote, they had been given an opportunity to say something, and I have to say that unlike many of the Semenanjung folks, they did.

As I looked at the results streaming in on the Malaysiakini website last night, my thoughts turned to those hardworking folks of Sibu, recalling the faces that I saw whenever I wandered around town. In their wisdom, they had looked beyond the cynical and destructive politics of West Malaysia, and sent a loud and clear message - we are standing up to be counted.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


My three year old is a sponge.

The other day while watching tv, when the adverts came on, she casually rattled off the names of the tv series being promoted - "Pao Tai Yan" (Justice Pao), "Ah Sien", "Jiat Pa Pa".

That got my attention, and I began to notice what she's saying. It seems like she's been absorbing everything that she sees and hears. After my wife's car accident earlier this year, Cynthia gets scared whenever I do any sudden braking. "Daddy, 撞车“ (Daddy, car colliding), she would say.

She would pretend her toy's a handphone and repeat verbatim phone conversations that she overheard.

I now no longer watch violent or scary shows like CSI in front of her - she gets disturbed and starts asking awkward questions.

All these made me realize the heavy responsibilities that parents carry - who your kids become do depend, to a large extent, to what you fill them with.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Long Live The Empire

Early on in our friendship, Simon noticed an odd obsession I had with a British movie magazine called Empire. Despite earning barely enough to survive in the early years of my working life, I always bought the magazine every month without fail.

I bought my first copy of Empire in Belfast in December 1991, and was instantly hooked. It costs £1.85 then. In 1995, I shipped my 4 years worth of Empire back home in a tea chest, along with some of my uni books. I can't recall where my uni books are now, but my Empire collection now takes up 25% of shelf space in my study room. Yep, all the way from 1991 to 2010.

What prompted this post was the surprise I got when I purchased a copy recently. In 1996, Empire was RM 15 a copy. In 2000, it went up by a third to RM 20, and it peaked at RM32 a few years back. But on Saturday, I was surprised to see RM25 starring at me on the cover of the April 2010 edition.

Over the years, editors and writers came and went. Some writers like Kim Newman, Ian Nathan and Angie Errigo had been around for so long it felt like listening to an old friend talking when reading their movie reviews.

I think what made Empire last so long was the genuine love its staff had for movies. That, and a great sense of fun and humour.

Nowadays, I've made a fan of Simon, who shares my copy every month.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Help Yourself

Been having this song on repeat recently - Help Yourself, written and performed by a guy who called himself Sad Brad Smith specifically for the movie Up In The Air.

The movie was both about the personal devastation caused by layoffs all over the US, and the character played by George Clooney who chose to isolate himself in the cocoon of constant travel, distancing himself from both friends and family.

So, the song's lyrics, in a way, is directed towards the people who had been laid off, but is applicable to George Clooney's character, too.

Have a listen :)

I know you'll help us
When you're...
Feeling better and we realise
That it might not be for a long, long time...

But we're willing to wait on you
We believe in everything that you can do
If you could only lay down your mind

I want you to try to help yourself

Take the time to take apart
Each brick that sits outside your heart
And look around you
There's people everywhere
No they don't always show
They're just as scared
And we'd be more prepared
If we pulled on through...

I want you to try to help yourself

Oceans of water underneath our feet
Terrible design
Dusty rooms you cannot sweep
Clouding up your mind

I know you'll help us when you're...
Feeling better
And we realise that it might not be
For a long, long time...

But we, we lend the weight on you
We believe in everything that you can do
If you could only lay down your mind

I want you to try to help yourself...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

J Plates

The other day as I was driving around my wife's hometown Kluang, I spotted a car with the number plate JFK, and suddenly realized how lucky Johoreans are with their number plates.

Apart from showing off that you are part of the Kennedy clan, you also get number plates like JET. My friend Simon used to own a car with that plate, and I relished those days when we could say "Let's take the JET" with a straight face in front of our friends.

Then there's JEW (??!!), JAN (for January babies?), JAL (Japan Airlines employee), JAM (for the masochistic). Add the number 5 to JAW and you get Steven Spielberg's classic summer blockbuster.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

That Thing Called Running

Many friends and relatives ask me about my obsession with running in the last two years, and I often have a hard time trying to articulate what it really meant to me.

But a few months back, I stumbled upon Haruki Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running". A memoir of sorts, Murakami explained the role of running in his life as a novelist, and I found myself gobbling up half the book at a cafe within one hour of buying it.

A lot of people assumes that people run in order to think, but actually the opposite is true. Murakami described it as "running to create a void", which is exactly what happens to me when I run. There are barely any thoughts when I run - just the focus on moving forward, on the pace, on the breathing.

Running is also about finding yourself - how far you would go to get anything done, how much pain and suffering you are willing to endure. That sounds masochistic, but its actually quite enjoyable :)

Murakami captured all this and more in his little book. He also explained how running impacted the other aspects of his life, especially his writing career. He went so far as to say that he would have produced something very different if he had not been running.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Customer Service

Its been a while since I shared customer service encounters and well, what better story to tell than to share my encounter with the famous third player in the Malaysian Telco market :)

My brother gave me his old Blackberry recently, so after so many years of admiring them from afar, I finally became a Digi customer!

First, the good news. The registration was quite painless, just filling up a simple form at the dealer, and the line was active in 2 hours.

But this morning, my line stopped working. I've been noticing missed calls from the Digi Helpline, but gave them no heed as I usually kept the phone in silent mode. I mean, I use it ONLY for email, and no one has my new number, so it would be weird for anyone I know to be calling me on it.

Anyway, I called the Helpline. And was put on hold. Now, I usually have nothing against holding, but since I've been used to not holding whenever I call Celcom, I have to count it against Digi. Next, the nice Filipino lady (yes, her accent was obvious) asked for my line number, which I remembered wrongly. She told me the line is registered to another person, then stayed silent. My mind was racing by now - how to get the problem resolved?? Then I blurted, "Can't you just find the number by my IC?" Luckily, the lady obliged, and found my account.

Then it was explained that Digi was supposed to make a verification by calling me on the number. Since I never picked up their calls, my line had been barred. I guess that's fair enough, but wouldn't it have been great to also send me an sms as well? I would have called back pronto to do the verification. Secondly, the dealer never mentioned anything about the verification.

But I have to say the Filipino lady did her job well, and the verification was quickly done. My good impression of Digi was slightly dented, but overall, I have to say I'm impressed.

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