Sunday, December 31, 2006

Something's wrong here?

In Yesterday's Star,
"Like this correct meh?" My daughter asked me. I took a look and I saw this:

A reader sent in this photo of a "good Samaritan" hosing down some burning electrical cables on a TNB pole. The caption further said there should be more good Samaritans like this guy. But I say, that's a foolhardy thing to do. What little I know about electricity, it can even jump through air if two cables are put close enough end to end and if one of them is live and the other neutral. It can travel through water even much faster than you can say "whoosh!". Those look like live cables to me (of course that explains the sparks).  And I wouldn't want to be that guy standing up there on a roof of a car shooting water at those sparks. The editor should have got someone with knowledge of fighting these kind of fires go through the write-up before he puts this up for the public to read. Wrong information can be dangerous.

But then again, even my teenager knows it's wrong action...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

With No Regrets


I kept hitting the lid in jump after jump after jump

Like a flea trained in a jar

I found I amounted to nothing

I was convinced I couldn't get far

I stared at my own glass ceiling 

And thought I'd never get over that bar


The sky was only a distant round hole

At the top of my well

My world stretched from my feet

To the roof of my coconut shell

There was no point to try harder

As I knew I'd be sure as hell

Wouldn't' grow taller than my grandfather


I struggled to spread my wings

Knowing first I had to get on my feet

I found the courage to try something else

While my dreams remained in the backseat

Overtaken by the cares of making a living

Making sure the kids have enough to eat

And have a decent education


But I wasn't satisfied


Until I could make something of myself

I didn't care to look in the mirror

At the stranger who didn't reflect me

And say to the lonely loser

Be what you wanted to be

The weary and worn-out looking mask

That's not the face I wanted to see


I wanted to see a face reflecting the light

I longed to see a face full of cheer

I imagined an image full of confidence

Not a shadow cowering in fear


But now


Knowing I've done only what was right

And having everything I hold dear

I've harnessed all that I came with

Not comparing myself with any peer

Still plodding on through this road of life

And got this far with a conscience so clear


And above all

With no regrets


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Morning in the cool north wind


Cool winds from the north

Bearing signs that the dry season is coming along

Taking away the grayness that threaten

More devastating floods to the east coast and south

Here the sun peeked from behind scanty clouds

While a little girl skipped along a path

Through an empty field of grass and little flowers

Tagging little brother by the hand

Dribbling a stray football

Left behind by yesterday’s boys

Having fun

I wanted very much to reach for my camera

To capture the rhapsodic moment

But felt unwilling to break the spontaneous enjoyment

That the little girl was having

While the little brother cast cautious looks at us

As if half expecting someone to stop them

From enjoying their little game

We smiled at them and moved on

Avoiding crossing their path

While the scene became engraved

In my mind

Friday, December 22, 2006

Modern slavery


I must have said this many times before but in different ways and dialects.  Malaysians are being enslaved by their own automobiles. 


We start working to carve out a career and then spend the rest of our lives paying the banks for a succession of cars we need to take us to and from work and other places and run our daily errands.  What a price we have to pay for mobility, and to keep our family from the rain and shine and to avoid using the shabby public transportation.  Last I heard it wasn't getting any better.  Feel sorry for the folks poorer than me who can't afford even to be enslaved by a car.


Yesterday (I mean last night) I signed 15 pages of blank documents just for a bank loan for a new car.  If any of those pages is a Trojan I'd be a sitting duck.  It was done 'cloak & dagger' style at a restaurant car park with his car bonnet for a desk.  The loan officer couldn't find my house in the dark.  They're getting aggressive for new business, these banks.  The last time I bought a car I had to take a whole day off and go all the way to the bank and wait for the guy to fumble around in his office for the papers while I twiddled my thumbs.  They also scrutinized carefully every document I produced.  And then the interest rate was sky high. 


Pardon my complaining.  It must be the mood I'm in. 


Switch my thoughts to the folks down south.  Many have abandoned their cars in flooded neighborhoods and are now clamoring for higher grounds looking for anything that can keep them afloat and warm.  Heard say that they didn't have it this bad since 20 years ago. 

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rolling in tradition

Wifey thought we could dispense with rolling glutinous rice balls (tang yuan) this year due to fact that we got less hands and less mouths (to eat afterwards). She opted for purchasing some ready made ones. Alas, it was not to be. They weren't ready made. One had to order then in advance.

So, dinner over, we're back at the dining table kneading dough and rolling colored "marbles' like we do every year.

Traditionally a year ending get together called winter solstice celebration. Now it's less celebrated but not less in importance.

Over the distance, we remind each other we are still part of a whole. The roundness, the sweetness... Aah...tradition...

People = bad news.


Stay away from people if you can.  They're bad news.  Along with the love and friendship and happiness, they give you loads of viruses and bacteria and make you sick as well.  Not to mention the stress and pressure they give you with their demands for attention, and the cleaning up after them.


The Aztecs lost their civilization to the Spanish conquistadors not because the Spaniards had greater fire-power or superior fighting skills.  Those Aztec people were some of the best guerrilla fighters the world had ever known.   After some heavy losses the Spaniards almost gave up.  But the Aztecs eventually got wiped off the face of the earth because some among the Spaniards came in peace and love and religion.  They brought the flu and other viruses too. 


My ex-boss Bill used to stay out at sea for months on end through rain and shine and rough weather and never had a day of sickness.  But within a week of coming ashore and after the hugs and kisses of friends and relatives he had to get a doctor's prescription. 


Civilization.  Makes one wonder if it's worth it at all.  Anyway, anyone got a choice?



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I Saw No Dog!!!


When he was a kid, brother-in-law KK used to go to school early during the fruit season. Why? Next to the school was an orchard. Inside the fenced-up orchard there were some rambutan trees. There was also a sign saying, "Beware of Dog". But each morning, KK and his friends would usually end up with a load of rambutans in their schoolbags.

One day the Headmaster, who got the message about the boys raiding the orchard, hauled up the suspects and went through their schoolbags. He found nothing. He then gave them a lecture about entering other peoples' property, about stealing and about danger of being bitten by dogs. Suddenly, he pointed his cane at KK and asked, "KK, didn't you see that sign which says, Beware of Dog?"

Caught by surprise, KK said, "I saw no dog!" That gave the game away. If he could tell there was no dog, then he'd been over the fence! The Headmaster had his day and KK had a burning butt for the rest of the day.

For the rest of the school term they nicknamed him, "I-saw-no-dog".

PS:  thanks for your story, brother KK.  next time we'll stay longer for more of your tales.

Monday, December 18, 2006


I got this through another email. 

It looks like a sad  story.................but do continue reading
to the end!.............It a  lesson to learn.........

I was walking through the supermarket to pick up a few things when I
noticed an old lady following me around.  Thinking nothing of it, I
ignored her and continued on. Finally I went to the checkout line, but
she got in front of me.


"Pardon me," she said, "I'm sorry if my staring at you has made you
feel uncomfortable. It's just that you look just like my son, who died recently."

"I'm very sorry," I said to her, "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Yes," she said, "As I'm leaving, can you say 'Good bye, Mom?' It
would make me feel so much better."

"Sure," I said. An odd request, but no harm would come of it.

As the old woman was leaving, I called out, "Good Bye, Mom!"

As I stepped up to the checkout counter, I saw that my total was

"How can that be?" I asked, "I only purchased a few things!"

"Your mother said that you would pay for her," said the cashier.



Now... is that a bad story with a good lesson or a good story with a bad lesson?


Sometimes from our early lessons we're brought up with, we do good deeds like these because we all have mothers.  And our instincts tell us, "Why not?"  But on the other hand we feel we got conned.  And that hurts in a few places.  First it's our wallet, then it's our self-confidence, and our pride.  After that our heart gain a few more calluses which makes it harder.  But when we can look at it from another view point, that old lady probably needed the help but she was just too proud to beg for it.


I think many people are like that.  Pride, like our other emotions, can help us or hurt us.  It's probably just too bad for that old lady.  She'd have used up all her luck before long and her trick will not work forever. 


If you'd ever be in the same situation as the young man, how would you react or feel?

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Is it 'private road' or 'thinking'?

"私路无论如何开阔" I think it translates into: A private road will never become wider.  Meaning (I assume) that thinking in private will not enable one to widen one's world-view.   In the same vein, trying to solve a problem on one's own without seeking others' opinions may not always work.  That's why we sometimes need brain-storming.  (Although most of the time we get only drizzles while the participants help themselves to the free coffee).


I keep hearing this saying over and over on Mixed FM.  I don't really understand the true meaning of what is said.  I'm just guessing. 


Asking the Chinese educated one didn't help much since she's not really paying attention except to the pop songs they're playing.  Other than that, all the rest are just ramblings and mumblings and lots of noises. 


Anybody with a better translation of the above?  I'm open to some thinking....


Monday, November 27, 2006

Why not Donald Duck instead?

My Jakarta colleagues booked a room for me in this hotel.  When I saw this letter on my bed as soon as I threw down my bags, I had a good chuckle.   Mr. Iteh?  They must think I'm Japanese... No matter, they provide great service.  They leave you privately alone when you don't call or tell them there's any problem.  But when I mentioned there was a problem with the mini-bar (it was locked), they had someone waiting at the door when I came back from dinner. 

There was a grand piano at the corner behind the entrance.  Every evening, the pianist would pound on the keys rendering pieces from classics to the latest pop.  One evening, I looked at him when I heard him play one of my favorites.  He caught my eye and beamed me a big smile and I gave him a thumbs up.  Next evening I dropped into a seat in front of the piano as soon as I entered.  After he finished the piece he was playing, he motioned for a request.  I mentioned "Fur Elise" and he did it perfectly (well, at least to me) and continued to do a few more classics.  It was relaxing to say the least.

I love staying in this hotel.  It's connected to a shopping mall where you can get anything you need.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bright ideas - anyone?

We were discussing the menace of the Mat Rempits.  This colleague of mine came up with a brilliant idea to stop or curb their enthusiasm for the one wheeler show-off.  Catch the guy and take off the front wheel and tell him, "Now go home on your one wheel".....


How's that for a solution, huh?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

If only


If only transport vehicle drivers would clean up

Their trucks before leaving worksites


If only people do their share of the work

Keep their share of the responsibility

To safeguard public amenities

Instead of just looking after their bottom lines


If only untainted officials would do their jobs

And without fear or favor enforce the rule

Of cleanliness or overloading


If only builders of roads comply

With specifications that withstand usage


If only we live in an ideal world

Where everyone does his part

To maintain the environment

And stop wastage of valuable assets


If only

If only

If only

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Cure for sore-throat.

I tried to plant some in my garden some years ago by throwing some seeds around.  Nothing happened.  Then I managed to get one seedling and poked it into the ground.  It has been flourishing all over the place since.  Now I have them even in the back lane.

Whenever you feel some itchiness in your throat and it's hot and dry (sure signs of pending sore-throat), just get 5 to 10 leaves, wash them thoroughly, throw them into a cup, boil some water, pour in, cover it for a while until its temperature is down to lukewarm.  Then drink it. 

Caution:  You may scream.  Because it's bitter.  That's why they call it Hempedu Bumi (bile of the earth).  It's an anti-toxin which is good for cleaning out your liver.  It also helps lower blood pressure. 

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Kaffir Lime

Took this shot some years ago.  Didn't know the real name of this lime until today.  Looks like it's in bloom.  We used to call it 'thaiko kam'.  Always love the smell of the leaves.  Use it as a natural deodoriser in the car.  While going through the papers this morning I read about Kaffir Lime, and decided to search Google.  And presto! 

I found this:


Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Mooncakes that I remember

It’s here again.  The Moon-cake/Harvest/Mid-autumn/Lantern festival.  There’s your collection of descriptions for this lunar month’s specialty.  We, who’ve been handed this traditional practice from our previous generations, often wonder what to do with this variety of names for it.  Never mind, we say.  Let’s just enjoy it.  Let’s join the procession it there’s one around the neighborhood. 


So you’d ask, “What’s a hand-painted basket got to do with a lantern festival?” 


When I was a kid, we didn’t have much good food or delicacies to go around.  Whatever special treats we had was when special offerings were made to the Deities during festivities.  I remember one eighth month when we had mooncakes.  They tasted so good, I wanted more.  Mother had kept them in a beautiful basket hung from a hook attached to a beam in the roof.  I’d look up longingly at the basket and begged mother to take down those cakes and give me some.  But mother said they’re finished.  It was just an empty basket.  I wasn’t convinced and insisted she take down the basket and show me.  In the end she relented, took down the basket and opened it.  After I‘d seen for myself that it was really empty, I stopped whining. 


Now, whenever I look at the basket, I remember how great mooncakes tasted back then.  But these days, mooncakes cost a bomb, especially those designer pieces that are specially made for some people to present as special gifts to their parents or in-laws.  And they’re not really that appealing to me anymore. 


No doubt these festivals are now commercial issues, but practices must change with the times and reality.  Since the Americans have shown proof that they’d planted the Star Spangled Banner up there many years ago, most people have stopped worshipping the Moon Goddess.  But the lanterns, sweet cakes, pomelos and groundnuts still remain in the cycle of supply and demand. 


Nothing dies harder than fun, food, music, dancing and festivities.  But traditional beliefs must be reviewed and revised according to the conditions presented in their beautifully painted containers.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Then & Now










She hasn't changed much









I still see the cheeky little girl with the hearty laughter...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Why don’t they hire chimps for the job?

My turn to vent some angst. 


You got a line to design and set up.  You get a deadline and you got some help and some ideas and lots of photos and videos from some overseas facilities to benchmark.  Then they expect you to become an expert overnight.  They expect you to be a superman and perform everything to perfection.  They don’t have an inkling of the process because they’re not interested to know.  It’s your job, they say.  But they have lots of suggestion for unnecessary practices which they think will help them to ‘see’ it better, but they’re not doing anything to help.  But when you did something wrong in their eyes, they slam the hell out of you. 


When you arrange for a meeting to list out potential problems, they have excuses not to show up or they don’t show up at all.  They don’t bother if the reps they appointed don’t show up either.  In between, they have other unnecessary or unimportant little issues to keep you out of your seat.  Meanwhile, you’re expected to follow up on what you’vie written in your work-orders to other departments or follow up on problems which other departments should be handling.  But when these problems are not solved, that’s also your problem.  You didn’t follow up!  They tell you, you’ve been sleeping.  They ask, ‘what have you been doing all this while?’ 


Then when some expert with many years of experience having solved all the known problems shows up to help you put things in perspective, they come into the meeting room for some free coffee and talk cock, and hold up your time instead of contributing some ideas.  Then they demand that every step of the process must be made poka-yoke (idiot proof).  They don’t believe in their own people.  They don’t think their people have brains.  And they keep wondering why Malaysians can't improve themselves.  But they're the leadership and they're providing the transparent ceiling over their own people.  Then they wash their hands of all responsibilities if their people do something wrong. So you tell them to hire chimpanzees to run production. 


That’s the price I pay for opting for an engineering job instead of joining the ass-kissers ranks.  (Pardon me if you’re a manager.  But in here, they’re a different breed altogether.  There’re some good ones but they’re a rare species.)  I thought I’d be spared the stress and heavy pressure.  But it seems the guns are being turned around now.  The weight’s shifted in this direction, and the storm's gathering momentum.  You have the first day, they have their fifteenth. 


Sigh…its heavy, but life goes on.  Besides, money doesn’t grow on trees.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Lesson from the woods

Take a lesson from the woods.


The teeny weenie little creeper said to the big strong tree, “Please sir, shed off some of your leaves and give me some sunshine.”

“No way, you little creep,” Said the big strong tree.  “Go elsewhere and find your own sunshine, and don’t pester me.  You have no place here.”


So the little creeper crept along the ground trying to find an open space to get a little bit of sunshine.  But he couldn’t get very far.  He got over-whelmed by all the other bushes and weeds.  He finally crawled back the big strong tree and began to climb upwards towards the sunlight.  He kept going higher and higher.  His brothers and sisters came along and they joined him in the upward journey.  Soon, they were climbing all over the tree. 


Eventually, without realizing it, the big strong tree began to loose his energy.  His leaves shrank in size and branches started growing weaker.  Slowly, over the years, instead of growing taller and bigger, he began drying up and some of his branches withered and fell off.  Then when the last of his leaves fell away, he died and began rotting away consumed and defeated by the family of creepers.


End of story. 


Now relate that to people.  Doesn’t it sound familiar?  There are people who are rich, powerful and strong and who won’t budge and inch no matter how hard you beg them.  They take and take and keep taking, and leave only the bits and crumbs to the weak and lowly.  But soon, the weak and lowly would grow and grow and multiply and they outnumber and overwhelm the big and strong ones and somehow, tactically defeat them. 


Only the wise ones grow and help others to grow that they become stronger and their strength and the combined strength of others help sustain their great position.  Thus they are assured of their lasting power.   Those who have their power and don’t think that they owe anyone soon find themselves fighting for their own survival.


Like the big tree.

This Old Guitar

I just couldn't get myself to throw this old guitar away.... It's been there for me since I got my first job and got paid.  The first thing in my life I paid for with my own money.  And it's done me lots of good and helped kept my spirits up 

during my worst days.  (Ok, I earned a lot of calluses from it too, but that's part of the bargain.  They help you feel less pain...)  


How can you send a good friend away?




This old guitar taught me to sing a love song,
it showed me how to laugh and how to cry.
It introduced me to some friends of mine

and brightened up some days.
It helped me make it through some lonely nights.
What a friend to have on a cold and lonely night

This old guitar gave me my lovely lady,

it opened up her eyes and ears to me.
it brought us close together and I guess it broke her heart,
it opened up the space for us to be,

what a lovely place and a lovely space to be.

This old guitar gave me my life my living

all the things you know I love to do
To serenade the stars that shine from a sunny mountainside,
and most of all, to sing my songs for you,

I love to sing my songs for you,

yes I do, you know, I love to sing my songs for you.


(John Denver)

Country Singer


I used to be a country singer.  (Well, we lived in the country and I loved to sing.)  It was sort of therapeutic for me whenever I got stressed.  Besides, there wasn’t much else to do in the evenings.  And initially the only audience I had was my long-suffering siblings and parents.  Then some critics in the form of neighbors came into the picture.  Then we had family friends, including a cousin (who broke my guitar while trying to play sepak takraw and strum it at the same time).  


Now, fast-forward to 21st century.  I often wondered what chance I’d have getting up on a stage and singing to a real live audience.  The few chances I had for me to find out, I blew them.  (I chickened out.)   The only place I could get to sing without inhibitions was in the bathroom.  I could try the living room but then whenever I got the mike plugged in, the kids “have homework to do”, “gotta get to bed early”.  Wifey would busy herself in the kitchen.  I just guess my singing isn’t much to shout about.  I’ll say that they’re more understanding than appreciative, its dad’s way to de-stress.


One evening, at Sook Wen’s wedding dinner there was a karaoke session, and there were some good singers and some so-so ones, all scrambling for the mike.   Fine, let’s just be entertained and eat.  I was chewing on some chicken in my mouth when I heard my name being called out by the MC, introducing me as the uncle of the bride.  Being the good uncle that I am, I wasn’t about to let the bride down.  So I gamely got on to the stand and delivered a poorly timed ‘Green green grass of home’.  That wasn’t so bad because I wasn’t told in advance and didn’t have time to turn my stomach into knots waiting for the cue.


I’m not really too keen about conquering my fear of the stage.  I don’t need to earn a living from it.  But remembering an old lesson from dad about facing my fears, anything I’m scared of doing I just thought I should take a shot at before I got too old for it.  (I don’t think they’d let me up on the Bungee platform without a medical certificate, would they?  Anyway, I’m not scared of that, so I’ll rule that out as a challenge!).  But heck, why not?  Some day I may need to get up there and announce something or say something on someone else’s behalf and find myself getting stage-fright.   Err, scary.


So, last night at our company’s annual din (I mean dinner, but ‘din’ is the correct description for it) I took to the stage for the 2nd time in my life.  Shivering in the knees but managed to keep my voice steady, I introduced my song with, “This is a song recorded in 1960 by the Brothers Four.  But tonight I’m going to sing it alone.  (pause) It’s called - Greenfields” (But why the heavens did they make the music so much slower than when I was rehearsing it?).  


I got a colleague to record it with my Olympus.  He managed to catch the ending.  They blew too much smoke at the start.  That was good because I couldn’t see the VIP table which was right in front.  In spite of that I managed to catch a glimpse of the CEO nodding his head in approval.  He probably recognized the song.  (BTW, that’s not a port belly.  That’s my shirt I didn’t have time to tuck in properly.  The organizing committee ushers were extremely good at their job.  There was no lapse in the program.  Everything ran like clockwork.)  I brought my tie along but it felt so strangling I took it off before they finally dragged me up on stage (which is also not true, I went up willingly enough)

Here’s the Country Singer doing his stuff. 


P.S.  Sorry folks, no show.  The Olympus FE150 came with a quirky Quicktime.exe  playable only on version 6.4.  Can't run on anything else.  Too bad those folks at Olympus better buck up.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Go, take a nap...

Go ahead.  Take a nap after your lunch.  Sir Winston Churchill used to do it.  Mexicans do it and even have a name for it.  They call it Siesta.  Now the Japs are trying to adopt it.  Yeah, Japan.  A nation of workaholics who even have a word for dying of overwork!  They must be wisening up.  No sense working your ass off for nothing.  No, I don’t mean that actually.  What I mean is you need to take a break and recover your lost energy.  By afternoon, most of us have probably used up most of our positive charge.


And I’ve been practicing it for years too.  Instead of rushing outside for a “better’ lunch, I have a quick & easy one in our cafeteria.  Well, I‘m ok.  I watch my waistline pretty closely.  Not too choosy about food either.  Eat almost anything except (owing to religious obligations), beef.  Then head back to my work desk, read some blogs, write some comments, plug ear-phone into ear, turn on mediaplayer for some guitar music and head off to forty winks with head on makeshift pillow consisting of McMaster-Carr catalogue with a sponge and a folded smock on top to be comfortable.  Thank the office designers for cubicles.  They do offer some sort of privacy for such ocassions.


It doesn’t last very long though.  A group of chatterbox ladies would saunter back to the next cubicle after their lunch and start their daily exchanges of what goes on in their lives.  But by then I’d have my 15 minutes of shut-down for recharge.  It actually gives me an advantage.  I‘d manage to sit out the most boring of afternoon meetings and wear out even guys ten years younger, without nodding off or yawning or begging someone for a stick of chewing gum to stay awake. 


So much for a little recharge at so little cost to the company, would you say?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I'm in a blank spot these few days.  Since this just came in from a friend's email, I'm posting it here instead of forwarding it.  Read and ponder.... it may be your current situation.  And stay in there...ok?


I'm told the story is true: A woman was giving birth to a baby in an
elevator at a hospital. When she complained about the location, a
nurse said, "Why, this isn't so bad; last year a woman delivered her
baby out on the front lawn."

"Yes," said the woman on the floor, "that was me, too."

Who said, "If I didn't have bad luck I wouldn't have any luck at

But on the other hand, not all "bad luck" should be considered a bad
thing! Like someone said, "When life gives you a kick, let it kick
you forward."

In the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway learned something about "bad luck" and
getting kicked by life. He was struggling to make his mark as an
author when disaster struck. He lost a suitcase containing all his
manuscripts -- many stories he'd polished to jewel-like perfection --
which he'd been planning to publish in a book.

According to Denis Waitley in his book Empires of the Mind (William
Morrow and Company, Inc., 1995), the devastated Hemingway couldn't
conceive of redoing his work. All those months of arduous writing
were simply wasted.

He lamented his predicament to friend and poet Ezra Pound who called
it a stroke of good fortune! Pound assured Hemingway that when he
rewrote the stories, he would forget the weak parts; only the best
material would reappear. He encouraged the aspiring author to start
over with a sense of optimism and confidence. Hemingway did rewrite
the stories and eventually became a major figure in American

Don't pray for fewer problems; pray for more skills. Don't ask for
smaller challenges; ask for greater wisdom. Don't look for an easy
way out; look for the best possible outcome.

When life gives you a kick, let it kick you forward.


Sunday, September 3, 2006


Here’s a passage I copied directly from Screenshots’ comments section.  (hope you don’t mind, Jeff)   It is from stories like this that helps keep my faith in my fellow Malaysians from being overwhelmed by the occasional bombardments from green-horn politicians, unthinking parliamentarians, publicity seekers, extremists and bigots who often hog the front page news and give me the shudders every time I try to look into the future of this fair land which we call Home.  But the optimist in me refuses to look too long into the dark images created by those louts in the guise of champions of race and religion. 

I like to keep such messages so that I can keep coming back and read them again in case my spirits are down and before I start to drown in the murky waters of doubt, despondency and the images of doom.  For the sake of our future generations, I do hope we can read more of such messages from our fellow Malaysians.

I do hope you share my sentiments. 



AS a news reporter with The Malay Mail between 1994 and 2005, I met Rev. Dhammananda several times – usually during Wesak Day celebrations he led at the Buddhist Maha Vihara (temple) in Brickfields and a few other occasions.

Every time I bumped into him, I only asked a few questions just to get some quotes for my news report. Never did I have a proper conversation with him. I regret that now.

I’d like to share what to me was a very special experience during one of my meetings with him.

It was on Christmas Day in 1998 when my Assistant News Editor assigned me to cover a Christmas party for some 200 underprivileged children. It was quite a news-worthy item to cover as it was held at the vihara in Brickfields, organised by a group of Christians, the Santa Claus was a Hindu and the contributor for all the balloons adorning the party area was a Muslim!

But what I will remember of that day forever was what the Reverend said and did.

You see, Dec ’98 was also the month of Ramadhan, where (many) Muslims like me were fasting. By the time I arrived at the vihara, it was 6.30pm and many children were already playing around, taking photos with Santa and being entertained by a clown, among others.

At about 15 minutes before 7-something pm (buka puasa time), I was busy thinking of where to go for my dinner - either the nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken or a roadside teh tarik stall, both within walking distances from the vihara.

The Reverend, the vihara’s religious advisor back then, must have been observing me. He walked up to me and, as if he had read my mind, calmly said: “Young man, don’t think too much. You can buka puasa here. I will accompany you.”

I agreed in a split second. He solved my problem!

“Please forgive us. We only have vegetarian dishes here,” he humbly and smilingly added, while leading me to a dining table somewhere in the vihara’s premises.

I was speechless. He brought me right down to earth with those few simple words. Even if there were only cookies served with lots of plain water at the vihara, I’ll be happy enough.

So, there we were, sitting at the dining table, together with a few other priests in their saffron robes and a spread of vegetarian dishes was laid out in front of us.

As I was making sure my wristwatch was accurate, the Reverend took out a small pocket radio transistor from somewhere, turned it on and tuned in to a Bahasa Malaysia radio station.

As scheduled, the muezzin recited the call for the evening prayer through the little speaker, which also marked the moment to break fast.

“Go ahead, Azlan,” he told me to start first. Only after I had my first gulp of water for the day, did he and the other priests start eating. I was honoured and humbled at the same time.

The fact that I didn’t go to KFC or the the tarik stall wasn’t because I didn’t know how to turn down the Chief High Priest of Malaysian and Singaporean Theravada Buddhists’ dinner invitation. It was buka puasa in a Buddhist temple for me, during a Christmas party! How cool was that, eh?

Seriously, the Reverend’s humble gestures greatly raised my respect and admiration for him. During that brief encounter with him, my personal tolerance and understanding towards other people’s faiths, beliefs and cultures was greatly altered, for the better.

In less than an hour of dining together, his simple acts of humility made me a better person, more open-minded and drastically changed, for the better, my ways of looking at the world I live in.

It was a small but very refreshing respite for this one tired reporter near the end of that very colourful and turbulent year – street ‘Reformasi’ protests, KL Commonwealth Games, the horrible smog and the Asian economic crisis, among many others.

To me, the Rev. Dhammananda was a great Buddhist and more importantly, a great human being.

Malaysia and its Buddhist community have lost a very special person.

With much sadness, I bid farewell to him.


for reference:

Photo from Screenshots' Jeff Ooi

Sunday, August 20, 2006

For ChiaYee


For you the world - your oyster

But for you girl - the torch

So bear it with pride

And hold it with your passion

Venture forth and make your mark

For yourself and for humanity*


Go boldly

Leave your footsteps in the sands

But tread lightly now

That you shall walk far

Lest you stir the antagonists

And manipulators of your willingness

To put your shoulder to the plough


Be not afraid, girl

To explore your dreams

To the ends of the rainbow

Let the passions be nurtured

And blossom

Be steadfast in your convictions

Though there may be times

You may have to take the road less traveled

And let go of the shackles of tradition


We who nurtured you from the cradle

Reluctantly, hesitantly

Have to let go

The strings that bind us forever


For you girl,


The sky is the limit 



*in the words of Pro-chancellor Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Lin See-Yan -18 August, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Something for your health...

I was waiting patiently for the mechanic to replace some parts on my car when the old foreman motioned to me into his office.  He pulled out a slanted wooden contraption from under his desk and asked me to stand on it.  I almost toppled over.  I couldn't bend my feet and ankles to match that 45° angle even if my life depended on it.  I got off as quickly as I got on.  He laughed and showed me how he could do it.  Wow!  And he's more than 60, a grand-dad, works like a horse and goes fishing weekends.  Now, that's being healthy!!

He told me he learned about this contraption from a Taiwanese friend.  It's supposed to help loosen the tendons behind the legs and strengthen those muscles and the spine and at the same time improves blood circulation, or something like that.... I wasn't paying too much attention anyway as he rambled on.  I was figuring out where I could lay my hands on some planks and make one unit myself.  And I did just that when I got home later.  If one old grand-dad could do it, I could do it too.

I built mine with slightly less incline with the intention of adding on more height to increase the incline to the standard 45° later when I can handle the easier slope. 

That was more than a month ago.  Now I can stand on it and read the papers comfortably for 15 minutes without wincing.  And I can also get up from a squatting position without having to straighten slowly for fear of breaking my backbones.  That's no play-play guys, that's something good for your health.  Wanna try?

For those who can read chinese, here's the manual

Meanwhile, there's also a word of caution for those who are pregnant in these instructions

Friday, August 11, 2006

Just to keep the peace

There were those years before we started to practice this annual ceremony during this month (seventh month of the Chinese Luna calendar).  We had for several years, an annual affair when the management had to deal with mass hysteria within the factory premises around this time of the year, during the 2nd or 3rd shift.  Night guards also told of seeing strange looking figures and were afraid of going on their rounds alone. 


One night while the managers and executives were attending a farewell dinner for a colleague at Penang’s E&O Hotel, they were rudely interrupted by a phone call to inform that there was another upheaval at the plant.  The plant manager and several executives had to cut short the dinner and rush back to the factory. 


That was when a production manager suggested holding this annual ceremony to “appease” the wandering spirits that are allegedly creating mischief among the operators. 

Most Chinese owned companies practice this annual ceremony.  The only difference is, local owned factories have these annual affairs paid for by the management.  Ours being a multinational, I guess we can’t put this into the budget.  So they passed the hat around. 


Eventually it became an official affair whereby a “Lor-Chu” (keeper of the urn) or chairman, and a committee is elected each year to organize the preparations and ceremony for the next year.


Well the first ceremony was started more than 12 years ago.  Until today, we haven’t lost even a minute of production time due to ‘unnatural’ occurrences.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

Hey! What's going on..

On the way home yesterday I took out my 'point-&-shooter' while passing by the 'rice bowl' of north Seberang Perai.  They were harvesting padi and creating some smoke signals.  I'd always loved the golden yellow colour of the rice-fields at this time of the year.  Never really got the chance to stop and take a really good shot.  Well, I've always considered stopping on the highway just to take a picture can be very dangerous.  I'd rather try taking 'running shots' like this one...

Then when I got home I smelt something coming from the kitchen which took all the stress of work from my mind.  It was yummy Mee Jawa for dinner.  I made myself a huge one with plenty of juices from 2 limes added in...

Much later, we retired to bed. While wifey and I were having some light conversation before heading for zzzz-land, I heard some scratching noises in the roof.  I thought nothing of it after listening for some more noises and hearing none.  Suddenly there was a loud crash from above.  We both jumped.  I went out to investigate.  Switched on the lights, got my ladder, torchlight and looked into the ceiling.  Came down again and got my camera.  Didn't want to miss this... But too bad, can't get much from the half dozen shots I took.  It was really dark in there.  I just realised there's another meaning to the expression "shooting in the dark."  All I got was these 2 headlamps glaring back at me.  After adjusting the lighting and contrast a little I got this....

It was a baby Musang.  It had sprung my mouse trap because there was a biscuit in it.  Fangyee, who was sleeping by herself in the next room said she nearly jumped out of her skin.  She kept her eyes closed, covered herself under the blanket until she heard us coming out and switching on the lights.

And I was wondering why there were no noises of mice scampering around in the roof the last few weeks.

And then this morning at the market, we came across this strange looking pineapple with 6 crowns!!!:

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Take a step back…


First it’s Tun Haniff Omar’s cautionary reminder for us to ‘hasten slowly’ with his A Malaysian Journey.  His message seems like a carefully worded reminder that we could lose it all if we’re not too careful about how we demand for our rights, and that we have to see ourselves first as Malaysians above all else.  Otherwise, no matter where we stand, rich or poor, majority or minority, we could possibly see 49 years of struggle go down the drain just because some of us refuse to give some in order to take some, but rather want to do everything “My Way” no matter what happens. 


Then the Sunday StarMag ran a series of stories about the Rwandan Tragedy about the Hutus and the Tutsis, as seen through the eyes of a film-maker, Raoul Peck, and the despairing experiences as related by Tan Sri Vohrah, and also posed the haunting question with a list of modern time genocides: (Are we) doomed to repeat the horror? 


Being smarter doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it all.  Being the stronger doesn’t mean you’ll win all the time.  Being the minority doesn’t mean you must just let things go without trying.  And being the majority doesn’t mean you can do it all as you please.  Any upheaval at all simply screws up the social order and if it finally ends, nobody’s going to take his cake and enjoy it too.  There are no winners.  We see it happen elsewhere.  We don’t want that to happen here.  You see something’s not right?  Got your differences? Let’s sit down and negotiate.  Chinese saying: “Take a step back; look at the horizon and the sky.”  You’ll see chances for compromise. 


As Datuk Wong says we need to: Stress on the common ground


Let’s look forward to another Merdeka day.  And another.  And another.  In spite of our differences.  Agree?