Friday, 31 July 2009

Volvo Dreams

Count Dracul
True to legends, Vampires are forever about style and grand entrances.

In the old days of the Count (of Transylvania, who else?), his ride would be a wagon with six menacing horses and a dark, brooding, silent horseman.

(There’s also his lusty incubus, but since that would veer this post into adult territory, let’s not go there..)

The latest incarnation of the blood sucking ghoul courtesy of the popular Twilight series, however, drives a Volvo; silver colored to boot.

My, oh my.

Not just any Volvo, mind you.

It’s the S60R (R standing for rapid, Volvo-speak) in the book, the chic C30 and the XC60 in the movies on the same.

I did mention style, didn’t I?

Volvo was (is still) synonymous with safety and used to be shaped like bricks.

When we were looking for a car to replace our good old Proton Iswara, I fell in love with a second hand 940.

In silver. (A color that seems to match the marquee very well.)

The seats were excellent, the dashboard seems built to last, the brick shape silhouette aesthetically pleasing.

I’ve never driven or traveled in a Volvo before, despite having worked for someone who uses it as her official car.

What I do know is that “Cikgu Besar” (retired or otherwise) and “Orang Gomen” (kudos) seemed to have a preference for Volvo as opposed to the other continental makes.

I have a soft spot for another Swedish brand, the Saab, but finding one in Malaysia that caters for the less than moneyed is like looking for a fuel-efficient Range Rover.

The Saab of yesteryear was all about style and they look almost like nothing else on the road.

Likewise the Volvo.

So it seems a fair alternative.

I was dead-set to give the 940 a go, when I recalled the maintenance bill I once handled for the aforementioned employer.

They were mostly four digit figures, and this was a run-off-the mill repair work.

A friend’s remark (complete with a smirk) on the owner of a Honda Prelude which had a dent came back to my mind: “He had just enough to buy the car.”

Of course, it was just jealous talk as there we were riding the old BMW (Bas Mini Wilayah), but on hindsight, it does make sense.

Thus, I slink away from the silver dream that could well end up a nightmare.

Or not: something I would never know.

What I (well, my wife actually) did end up with was the Proton Gen2.

Now that was truly a nightmare I don’t wish to ever recur.

Volvo dreams.


Simon Templar's

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Faithful Volition

“We were all standing so close to each other that no one could move. The plainclothes guards came into the room and broke all the light bulbs, and in the pitch dark started beating us, whoever they could.”

This is the narrative allegedly from one of the many prisoners from the Iranian’s election debacle.

Apparently, there have been many deaths; of bruised corpses being returned to families.

Allegations of bodies being released only on condition their deaths are certified as naturally caused.

Unlike Neda Agha-Soltan.

Western Anti Islam propaganda, perhaps?

Iran is after one of the few remaining Muslim majority countries who continue to snub its nose against the US and her Western allies.

That so, it is hard to identify any country as Islamic when you are confronted with such barbarity in acts.

Islam is just. It is about fairness, about tolerance.

Can any country in the world qualify?

Can we?

Here we have another call for a Fatwa: this time on the Internal Security Act.

I hate to ask, but, to what ends?

To justify its continued existence, its’ scrapping, its’ review?

The country has long adopted a secular constitutional system based on the English law for our legal system which includes the aforementioned ISA.

All the laws – with the exceptions of the Syariah laws - in the country are not enacted based on Fatwa.

Why do we need one for ISA?

So that Malaysian Muslims can rest easy if the law receives a positive response from the National Fatwa Council?

Fact remains that ISA is unjust and unfair.

It's existence justified on the basis of the majority’s interest against rabble rousers.

Nothing wrong with that.

There are, after all, enough in other preventive laws that restricts the movements of persons deemed either a nuisance or downright dangerous.

But there should be limits imposed that are fair to everyone.

Asking for Fatwa for everything would allow Muslims easy escape from using their volition and faith.

In Indonesia, there is a Fatwa that smoking in public (notice this peculiar proviso) is against Islamic teachings.

Islam is universal in application.

So why aren’t we - Indonesia’s closest Muslim majority neighbor - following this edict?

The truth is that we couldn’t care less of Fatwa unless it favors us.

A trillion Fatwa will not make a country Islamic if they are continually treated with disrespect.

So do we even need one on ISA?

What do we say to being incarcerated without trial for days and weeks?

Fair? Just?Vee?

Monday, 27 July 2009

Biggie Picturie

"Why don't we just let the behemoths lay down and then make room for the small businesses?"

"When the elephant falls down, all the grass gets crushed as well”

Kansas City mother Janelle Sjue asked the question and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke answered.

Bernanke was fielding questions on the decisions made by the US government to bail out the so-called financial “behemoths” before some 200 attendees to a town hall like meeting in the city’s Federal Reserve Bank.

The Wall Street Journal calls the session an unusual forum, the latest in a series of similar meetings by Bernanke mainly to explain his role in the massive bailout and lending.

To critics, behemoth is the right phrase with the US unemployment level at a 26-year high of 9.5% despite the signing of in February of a US787 billion stimulus package.

This is however not about the US economy, the stimulus nor Bernanke.

Well, perhaps only a bit about the soon to be expired (job-wise) US Fed Chairman.

(Now you see why he is going around the country explaining, eh?)

I'm wondering if this explaining to the masses one-to-one your policy decisions a norm in the US.

Can’t imagine Bank Negara Malaysia’s Zeti Akhtar doing the same here; but then again, she is not supposed to as this is the realm of the politicians.

Politicians are, after all, tailored for hogging limelights.

Asking questions in one-to-one session here is also far tougher since we (not all) seems to have this in-built reverence to especially our officios with honorary titles in front of their names.

You can just picture how difficult it is to ask as a question like Sjue’s when it has to be preceded by a whole tirade of titles.

By the time you reach the word why – the impact will be lost.

Of course, this time and age of openness (with thanks to our fifth Prime Minister), some would probably blast away, much to the indignation of the politicos’ subordinates.

I don’t foresee these questioners expecting an answer anyway with most of these “sensitive” questions mainly put out in the open for shock value.

That said, I do pity the likes of Bernanke and Zeti, and all the other National bankers around the world.

Being in the government meant that you have to look at the bigger picture.

Sure, these are “dubious” beneficiaries you are bailing out, but – as the oft quoted defense goes – their failure would be far more catastrophic for the masses.

Personally, they may well let these risk takers swim their way to financial hell without any lifejacket.

Bernanke said as much to the effect:“nothing made me more frustrated, more angry, than having to intervene.”

Big Picture comes in.

Whatever personal disgusts then take a back seat.

Big picture is also the oft quoted remark by our politicians when justifying rolling over minority interests.

In our usual meek self, we’d then response with the other well-used phrase:

“We are not against development…”

That’s another big reverence for us: development.

So what if the behemoth stomp on us while grazing their fill, eh?

We have to revere the Big Picture.

An example of a behemoth

Woolly Mammoth

Friday, 24 July 2009

Nervy Neighbours (aka A Gigantic Leap)

40 years ago we made a giant leap that sort of went nowhere.

Can we make a far more gigantic leap sometime this century? Can man (woman?) make it to Mars?

I don’t doubt that we will. It is more a matter of when and not if, really.

The red planet – so called because of its rustic look – is our galactic neighbor in this cosmos and ever since we discovered this planet that is approximately half the size of the Earth, Mars have always been treated with much romanticism.

But what if – do entertain me on this – this gigantic leap is one that is going backwards in a kind of ironic full circle of lifecycle?

What if Earth was Mars’s Mars all those Eons ago?

Imagine Earth continuing its unerring march towards inherent destruction of its own environment, with the millions of tons in toxic emissions making it hotter and hotter until life is unbearable.

Mars View Should this happen, what do we do?

Sentient and intelligent beings that we are, we migrate to what would be a more suitable habitat.

Say that sentient beings in Mars found themselves in similar predicament and the closest planet that seems to fit to bill for inhabiting is its erstwhile neighbor, Earth (Gaia).

Probes have been sent and found the planet having the same kind of surface, plausible levels of atmospheric conditions and ready to be inhabited with some tweaks.

There is however a logistical problem in the whole scenario, isn’t there?

Just how the hell are they going to make the interplanetary switch of whole civilizations from Mars to Earth?

It would be something utterly impossible.

What if they then decide to to send their genetic imprints so that to spark a new beginning instead?

Mars is then left to its destruction; ravaged by sandstorms and increasing temperature that laid waste to what was once a thriving planet.

Million of miles away, life start anew, the trauma of planetary travel rendering the genetic imprints dormant; with a locked knowledge base leaking new insights and lessons every now and then with the appropriate tweaks.

Now, wouldn’t that be fantastic scenario?

Of course, this premise has got like a billion holes in it that anyone with sound scientific minds would be able to dismiss as pure juvenile sci-fi bullshit.

Then again: Scientists have found strong evidence that water once flowed on the surface of Mars.

That there are channels, valleys and gullies on the planet's surface.

That there are vast amounts of ice beneath its surface; Mars’ very own North and South poles.

That the atmosphere is dense enough to support a weather system; to support clouds, winds and storms.

What if this is what Earth would be like millions of years from today?

Of course all these thoughts are without nary a single theological insight in mind: it's pure fantasy.

Just play around with it and see whether it can tweak any dormant “hidden knowledge” within.

I kid, of course.

Martian peeved at impromptu visit by naked Earthling.

Get some clothes on, Dr Man!!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Salva Veritate (Saving the truth)

The handphone belonging to the late Teoh Boon Hock has apparently been discovered.

Police were however tightlipped on this issue so far.

In NST: “I do not want to reveal where it was found because the information is crucial to our investigations,” said Selangor Police Chief.

The Sun meanwhile learnt that “Teoh's handphone which … appeared to be missing was handed over to police along with his other belongings by a MACC investigating officer who had earlier recorded a statement from the deceased on Friday.”

That this “discovery” is crucial to investigations is spot on.

This would be purely speculative but if what The Sun “learnt” is correct, questions must be asked as to why the MACC is still holding on to the handphone of the deceased, who is said to be a mere witness, even after he was allowed to leave.

For all we know, it could be for the simple fact that the keeper of these kept items has gone off as it was way after office hours.

A person’s handphone is easily a personal extension of himself with a myriad of information contain within.

A normal person would undoubtedly place a call, or place an SMS to a loved one at the very least, when they are freed after being subjected to an eight hour long “hiatus”.

(The Malay Mail today (no link, apologies) says its 11 hours. My God!)

We await further revelations on this.

The Sun also had another interesting highlight in their columnist page, courtesy of Citizen Nades who was writing on Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) which the MACC is said to be fashioned from.

“We were shown rooms where suspects and witnesses had their statements taken. They are equipped with video recording equipment and ICAC’s No. 2, Daniel Li was quick to explain the presence of a convex mirror in a corner of the room.

“That mirror will show all the people present in the room and no one can make complaints that our officers were intimidating them while their statements were being recorded.”

At the end of the session, the interviewee is given a copy of the recording (which would help prepare his defence) while the investigating officer gets another and a third is sealed and deposited in the vault.

“That’s because if the contents are disputed by the prosecution or the defence, the courts accept the sealed copy as authentic,” said Li.”

Wow. That would really be going by the book. There’s no way you can mishandle a suspect or even a witness if such is in place.

No more allegations of abuse can be thrown against our overworked enforcement officers then.

That would have provided both side the confidence that whatever they say will stand up in the eyes of the law.

Justice is about fairplay, and nothing in fairer than such transparency.

Shouldn’t this be the way forward, then?

Scenes from DC Comics "The Killing Joke"

DC Comics

Friday, 17 July 2009

The Longest While

From NST’s report today on PC by MACC’s deputy commissioner Abu Kassim Mohammad:
“Teoh never showed signs of being under pressure throughout the eight hours of questioning.”

“It was normal for the questioning to last more than eight hours.”

"He was a very cooperative, friendly, good and helpful witness.”

"When he came in, he was not escorted, unlike suspects who are guarded around the clock, even when they go to the toilet.”

Incredulous is the word that comes to mind when I read this piece.

Truly blessed are those who stay Saintly while being grilled for eight hours.

According to news report the deceased was finally allowed to go home in the wee hours of the morning, which meant that the questioning went on throughout the whole night.

Eight frigging hours.

With total strangers who wants to probe you for information.

Crucial information on allocations, on public funding. On alleged mishandling.

Saintly is a good word to be used here.

Here’s one witness who would not fit the criteria gushed out by AKM: Kajang municipal councilor Tan Boon Wah.

His alleged "They called me a stupid Chinese... Are you from China? You can't speak Malay?” line of questioning would make eight hours pass by very, very slowly.

Eight God-awful hours.

Watching time

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Yet Again?

Rumie Azzan Mahlie - Location before death: Building housing the state DOE office (Sept 17, 2004)

Teoh Beng Hock - Location before death: Building housing MACC office (July 16, 2009)

Rest in peace, brothers.

Rest in peace.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Disjunctive Cognisance

Magic of choices
The “non-political” decision of relieving students from having to learn Maths and Science in a single language (English) has thrown another interesting challenge to the Ministry concerned.

Where the hell do we squeeze the additional plus+plus minutes to “enhance English proficiency”?

Proposed: to reduce the time for the teaching of Music, Science and Physical Education.

Great stuff, this.

Music and PE does nothing to enhance any school’s academic standing, so let’s just slash them away.

Never mind that some students find these periods as comforting breaks.

Or that music enlightens the soul and exercise strengthens the physical.

Science in the pack is a bit of a mystery.

Isn’t this very subject that started all this six years ago? Something about terms being in English causing our students to lag when it comes to mastering Sciences?

Was this a typo? This should be a no-can-go-there territory.

And God forbid anyone from mentioning reducing time for Arabic or Bahasa Malaysia or Pendidikan Islam.

Looks like we can kiss goodbye to Music and PE.

Sorry kids, can’t do much about that.

You have English Lit and Grammar to learn and master, and musical notes and limbering up would not help increase English proficiency.

Obviously in the euphoria of doing away with the six-year old policy, someone had forgotten the needs of the target group: the students, thus the juggling act.

What were they thinking, really?

Manek Urai, perhaps?

Snap elections, maybe?

After all, those wanting the policy to continue are probably urbanites, and many of these are already opposition heartlands anyway.

Makes total sense then why the decision was for mother tongues rather than Bahasa Malaysia. So much for unity in language, eh?

Wonder if Gapena is truly rejoicing this one.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Raving Loony

Hulk Rave!The Star put it as a reversal.

That’s putting the decision to do away with “the teaching of Math and Science in English” policy very mildly.

To state the decision is not political is a load of bullshit.

The subjects will now be taught in multiple languages aka mother tongues.

Why not teach them only in Bahasa Malaysia for uniformity’s sake?

At least you can say that it’s would be for the country’s unity.

The students’ future.. Right, Tan Sri… right.

Imagine then that until the reversal takes place fully, the subjects would be taught in at least four languages.

From the Star: “Beginning 2012, students in Year One and Year Four in primary schools, and Form One and Form Four in secondary schools, will learn Math and Science in Bahasa Malaysia.

The change will not affect those in Form Six and Matriculation.

The two subjects will be taught in two languages until 2014 for other students.”

I hope they will not go stark raving mad.

Presumably some move could now be done to “gradually” undo the mistake of teaching our next generations in English and close the urban and rural gap.

The question must be then: closer to which point?

With evidence pointing to the most atrocious of proficiencies in the English language, could Muhyiddin “Reversal” Yassin truly say that an additional 90 minutes a week will help alleviate this deficiency?

Here’s another bummer of a justification from the Tan Sri:

“Only 19.2% of secondary teachers and 9.96% of primary teachers were sufficiently proficient in English.”

And why, pray tell, is this an important consideration?

Are 100% of teachers supposed to teach subjects in English that the small percentage be deemed crucial?

Whose fault is it that these teachers are not proficient? The students?

Maybe I am just overly emotional on this “reversal” (love this word.)

Perhaps, but I just read the UITM sports centre letter, and still remember the University Tun Hussein Onn advert debacle, so pardon my rants.

You can only take so much of “Powderful England” jokes.

Bollocks reversal.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Wonderful Woes

Here’s to looking at the bigger picture.

There is a lesson to be learned and it’s not only on language and its many semantics.

(Note that all italics are mine.)

On July 1, there was this headline : “PKA defers RM660m payout for PKFZ project.”

News reports cited its chairman verbatim: “The PKA board has resolved, on the basis of preliminary and provisional views obtained, to withhold these payments pending the completion of the full review by the task force.”

Anyone following with an iota interest the PKFZ affair would have either cried in jubilation or in desperation.

Scarcely a week later, another headline sneaked in: “PKA board to release payment to trustees of bondholders.”

Verbatim quoting goes: “PKA has also received instructions from the Treasury that the board be mindful of the implications that might affect the confidence of local and foreign investors in the Malaysian private debt securities market.”

Rm660 million is not chicken feed by a fair margin.

Much is at stake for the players concerned in the whole affair which has since slowed down in its momentum after a hectic stretch of public discussion.

Look at the quotes, though.

Notice the phrase “on the basis of preliminary and provisional views obtained” in the first report.

Preliminary and provisional means exactly that: they are but the first steps in a process, one that has now moved on.

Seems like some very careful choosing of words on PKA’s part.

The Treasury’s instructions on “implications” and “confidence” seemed indicative that they weren’t part of the prelims.

Whatever the case may be, the money will (perhaps it already has) make its way into the coffers of its “rightful” owners.

As to where the money will come from: “The RM660mil has already been made available to the PKA by the Finance Ministry.”

This was also verbatim from the July 1 report.

Makes you wonder about all the fuss, doesn’t it?

What a wonderful world.

Contagious: Shaun The Sheep


Thursday, 2 July 2009

Green Thoughts

Ever heard of the phrase Greenwash?

I heard it the first time during a seminar on Green Buildings; spoken by a construction professional from New Zealand.

Without quoting verbatim, what he essentially said was this:

The most effective methods to go green are usually the most cost effective and lay in good designs. Putting costly so-called green implementations to achieve the same is green wash.”

Going Green refers to moves by developers and building owners in getting accreditations for environmentally friendly design, implementations, management etc. with the recently launched Green Building Index Malaysia making it easier for local buildings to do so.

The essence of what the chap from NZ says is building designs that conform to the environment instead of the other way around do wonders in terms of environmental sustainability.

Things like building orientation, ventilations and openings, layouts; these are all built into any building’s design right from the start.

Adding green stuffs such as solar panels (easily one of the most expensive items any building could have) would make it iconic, shouting the building’s green intentions.

A not-so-great parable would be that of driving a hybrid around town when a bicycle is the best thing an environment could ever ask for.

Something like that.

The guy’s reasoning is spot on really: construction and environmental sustainability do not go so well hand in hand as the former would almost always have to pollute and plunder no matter what.

Going Green looks towards minimizing all the destructive impacts from construction by providing marks to environmentally friendly practices.

A detailed look into this subject would require a really, really lengthy discourse which I neither have time nor energy for.

You could certainly see some of these thinkings in the following art exhibition at the Artist’ Space in Concorde Hotel, Shah Alam.

The solo (at least I think it’s one) exhibition from Sabak Bernam-born Azhari Tasis is from this Saturday, July 4 to the end of the month.

It’s entitled: “Modernization, the Future and the Environment” and the show’s on from 11am to 11pm except on Sunday.

A sample is produced below.

Uneasy co-existence? You decide.

Azhari Tasis: Bagan Nakhoda Omar, Sabak Bernam