Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Project H45W1E: A general report

My daughter, Pauline rolled her eyeballs skyward when I suggested making a trip to Sabah, knowing my constant penchant for what she term "futile musings" she would just leave it at that, little realising this time I meant business. Is this what they call under-promise and over-deliver? Whatever.

Anyway, this was my game plan: First I squeezed Tony Fernandez until I was able to slash the transportation bill to bare-bone level. Next, for accomodation, I pulled in my Mum, to ensure free lodging at her sister's (my aunt)house. Next my niece, Joanne, whose constant snail mail pen-pal contact with my aunt's grand daughter Daffodil, provided a valid excuse to "pay her a visit". Ingenious eh! Mind you, I only share this brilliant idea codename :H45W1E "Holiday For Five With One Excuse", with whoever reads this, and lucky you!

Tension mounted as the Boeing landed on the Kota Kinabalu International Airport. Finally at the exit of the arrival hall, the two pint-size pen-pals met for the first time. Shy glances, sheepish grins as the two girls shook hands. They did'nt even talk in the car on the way home. What a difference from the union of the crying North and South Korean siblings long separated, as seen on TV. But within five days these two girls were to bond like super-glue and inseparable like Siamese twins.

For the next 5 days, we were treated to the whole gamut of Sabah's culinary delights ranging from the legendary Yew Kee Bah Kut Teh, to the to-die-for sea food and exquisite dim sum. We were chauffered here and there to ogle at the sights of the city, which in nearly ten years since I left, had morphed into a thriving and lively city with many new places and high rise buildings.

We also took a choppy ride in a speed boat to Manukan island and the sight of the multicolour fishes simply blew us away! My daughter and the two little terrors (by now) just squealed and shriek their ponytails off. The weather was just perfect for getting a sunburn, so, not wanting to be roasted like a suckling piglet, I decided to join my sister (Joanne's mum) under the shade. Alas, it was not to be. My toothless Sabah niece thrushed a mass of uninflated rubber dinghy at me and smiled. Actually she wasnt toothless, at age seven, she was in the process of dropping off her milk teeth, and they were like the Great White's row of teeth, sharp, serrated and evilly tinged with black plaque or whatever. Damn, I should have taken a close-up of her smile and exhibit them here for posterity.

Anyway, back to the rubber dinghy. So I asked her whether she brought along an air pump. What air pump? Oh oh! I sized up the mass of crumpled rubber and reckoned it must have meant blowing up 30 - 50 good sized balloons, and she was impatient! I must have taken about 15 minutes to fully inflate it, by then I was so friggin' groggy I must have tottered out of the shade and was able to see stars even in the bright sunlight! With my head still spinning as a result of siphoning my body's oxygen to the rubber boat, the squealing threesome of Pauline, Joanne and Daffodil rushed headlong into the warm, South China Sea with their inflated dinghy.

We also drove all the way to the Kinabalu National Park. Mountains have always fascinate me and one of the unforgettable sights of Mount Kinabalu (even though I have been here several times, but not to the peak) is this massive massif looming up in front of you as you get nearer and nearer, four majestic kilometres high, of craggy blueish tinge, sometimes wisps of clouds sweeping by. There are also "waterfalls" running down its gullies, bare rocks and forested fringe. For a guy who spend two scores of his life in pancake-flat Sibu, the word to describe this sight is spelt A-W-E-S-O-M-E. Frankly I dont know how I'd feel if I were to stand atop Low's Peak, I'd probably freaking pass out.

We passed by Kundasang, a quiant little market town with stalls alongside the main road hawking vegetables, fruits and tourist trinkets. However the multitudes of flies there make their presence there in a most disgusting manner, landing atop all the food. There is a nice resort, The Kinabalu Pine Resort is worth an overnight stay. I stayed there once with a few buddies many years ago. I remember vividly, in the evening, as the sun set, you sit on the balcony in an easy chair with the massive forlorn face of Mt Kinabalu looking at you, quietly, mysteriously. I tell you, you suddenly feel you become a wiser man/woman (though only for an evening). Let me recap. Cost of petrol to Mt. Kinabalu RM55. Cost of a double room at Kinabalu Pine Resort RM150. Cost of becoming a wise man after a close-up look at Mt Kinabalu : Priceless.

Dining in Kota Kinabalu can be a very intimate experience. I know because I was working here for one and a half years. I have came to love what the local call "kon-low meen", Sabah's answer to Sarawak's kolo mee, the kaya roti kahwin, the dim sum at Luyang (esp the chee cheong fun), Wei Ya Chicken rice (near Wisma Merdeka) and Gaya Street's Bah Kut Teh, my perrenial favourite. Kuching's laksa is also sold here, and I've tasted it too, but sorry, I have to reserve that compliment to good ol' Kuching. We ate at air con restaurants and open air sea food restaurants and despite the myth about costly eating out in Sabah, it was actually quite cheap. For slightly over a hundred ringgit, our entourage of 10 were burping and happy like Dagwood Bumpstead, granted half our group are kiddies. Of course there are time when it cost more. We almost tried the famous Saturday/Sunday brunch buffet at the Promenade (RM45.00), but it was solidly booked out even though we call out a day earlier to book.

The Damai area Roti Kawin needs a special mention here. We were coasting around the area at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. Daffodil's dad, Jackie said, if do not try the roti there, its like not visiting KK at all!!! Wow, strong words indeed. What's so kick-ass delicious about this outlet's roti kawin. I worked in KK for so long and never heard of this place. Jackie told me it was only famous just about nine years ago, mmmm....that explained how it escape my tastebuds. Anyway, when we arrived at the place, my jaw dropped (again). It was total mayhem, the sea of humanity jostling to get a piece of the action. We had to stand next to a table with a couple who were munching their bread nonchalantly, oblivious to the shouting of the waiters and our glances. There was only standing room and not much place to move about. Hey, I've heard of coffee shop with good business, but this is ridiculous! Having to stand and waiting to pounce on a just-vacated table like playing musical chair. Boy, this roti kahwin better be good or I'm going to ask for refund. I dont know whether I was hungry that afternoon, but I found myself wolfing down several "sets" of the roti (one set is a rectangle of two pieces cut diagonally, swiped with sinfully sweet and flagrant kaya, and two thick slabs of frozen butter). As you sink your teeth into its soft and springy textured bread, muuuuunch sloooowly, and take a sip of your glass of teh-c (EVERYBODY order teh-c here, the best there is by far), all distractions and noise just disappeared. Which explained why patrons here have this out-of-the-world look on their face and lost all civility and courtesy in giving their seats to those waiting even though they'd finished eating. By the way if you do pass by this way, order the plain untoasted roti kahwin, not the toasted ones. As for the rest of the culinary stories, like the bah kut teh, please remind me to relate it another time, as this manner of describing food make me a bit giddy.

All good things must come to an end. So it was that day Sunday, as we packed and set off for our last breakfast together with my aunt, her daughter (my cousin), her hubby and three kids, and we five Kuching tourists (sort that out yourself). It was a cloudy morning and cool as we ate breakfast. How lucky we were, while my wife and my elder daughter were languishing in the miserable wet weather of London, swallowing mash potato and fish and chips, we were having a gastronomical feast here. Hahaha! Actually my wife was accompanying my elder daughter to "shop" for a suitable university for her Master's Degree. Like we in the phone business are so used to hear customers say, "survey dulu".

At the departure lounge, the Siamese twins had to be separated at last, and strangely they were quiet again, like when they first met, while Pauline looked on bemused as she was not a party to this kiddie bonhomie, being of different age group. Anyway it really amazed me that kids too can have such intense love for each other when they choose to. But separate they must, and this time the long lost Korean siblings analogy gets played again, except the kids are quiet and quite controlled of their emotion. My mum hugged her sister, there was no tears but I felt they wept in their heart. Orientals are not suppose to display affection publicly.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

You know you are a true Kuchingite when......

You know you are a true Kuchingite when...

1. Your most important decision on waking up in the morning is to decide which coffee shop or food court to take your breakfast.

2. You eat out 7 days a week, three times a day.

3. You have at least 150 friends or relative who operate coffee shops and food courts. As for stall hawkers, you lost count.

4. You have at least 5 favourtie laksa stalls, 7 kolo mee, 2 kueh chap stalls and ONE beef noodle stall, ie Ah Mui mee sapi, at the Open Air Market.

7. You go nuts if you don't get your fix of kolo mee or laksa at least five times a week.

5. You think nothing of driving 10 miles out to check out a new food court, but pull a long face when your wife ask to to buy baby milk powder at the neighbourhood sundry store.

6.You fill up your suitcase with your children's favourite instant noodle when visiting them overseas.

7.You also pack so much belacan that a nyonya would cry with joy on seeing them.

8. You request the waiter for plastic bag to ta pau your unfinished food in a restaurant.

9.When it comes to tipping, er....sorry...what tipping?

10. While waiting for your change at the payment counter and excavating your teeth with the toothpick, you ask the cashier how much is the rental per month of this restaurant.

11. You greet your Foochow friends with "Chin ku long mo kang ngieng oh*, kaliu, kaliu", even though you saw him only yesterday.

8. You do your major grocery shopping only on Friday, the price-war-day between the supermarkets.

9. You get your mother-in-law, your father-in-law to tag along to buy toilet rolls (super duper cheap but limited to two packets per person), then buy them lunch/dinner at HongKong Noodle House.

10. You balk and rant at the cashier at the petrol station because she told you she ran out of contest forms you are entitled to for filling up there.

11. You tell her you'd come back for it the next day, and you actually do so, even though its a 10-mile detour.

12. You think nothing of camping outside the entrance of the about-to-open shopping malls for their opening ceremony, even though it is a six-hour wait.

13. You bring your whole family to the airport 5 hours before the plane arrives to pick up a family member, just to enjoy the aircon. The kids just love running around on the smooth floor and wide space, and you don't even have to change your clothes, ie you wear your pyjama and flip flops, or singlet with cotton shorts.

14. When you double park, it is okay. But when other people do so, you curse and swear.

15. Your Kancil always take up two parking spaces, that is alright because you are just parking for 5 hours only not the whole day.

16. You give "Premier" brand tissue paper free advertsing by displaying the tissue box on your rear window.

17. You display the dolls of the Forteen Dwarfs (two sets) on your Kancil's rear window, together with several cushions and a hanging Garfield, two spiderman, and several species of orangutans and perhaps a koala bear too. And oh, a bumper sticker too (See below).

18.You put up Kuching's best selling (perhaps the only) car bumper sticker "Baby on Board". (Bumper stickers I'd like to see "NO baby on board, and proud of it" or "Hot babe on board")

Friday, November 23, 2007

My first foray in eBay

Have you ever bought a 4-D ticket and while eagerly checking the result with bated breath, it turned out you miss the first prize by just one digit, or the permutation is wrong? Yeah, I can hear you, curses and damnation and all the sundry expletives. Now imagine the reverse. You are about to call your remisier to buy 50 lots on XYZ company, but did'nt because your phone battery was flat and next day the market melt like butter in an oven. Phew! Was'nt that close?

Who has'nt ever had a bad hair day? Just when I was about to throw in the towel on how to make money in the internet than another of those cyber opportunity presents itself before me in the form of eBay. Now I've known this auction site quite some time already and had in fact bought a book from it a few months back, but selling something there? Nope. But I had this used phone, a Nokia 9300i, a to-die-for gizmo only one year old. Toting this beauty in Starbuck Cafe is as cool as you can get, you savour the pleasure of looking at the swooning yuppies crowd from the corner of your eyes as they "oooh" and "aaah" when you whip it out from your briefcase and set it up next to your cappucino and start typing away (remind me of whispering sweet nothing in my g/f's ears) and with a serious look on your face as your furrows grow deeper and deeper.

Alas, this thingy had seen better days as I fondled its keypads and its smooth exterior. I may have to leave you, darling. For in the course of a conversation with a friend suggested disposing it off in eBay. It was like a bolt of lightning, (to exaggerate a bit). Yeah, why not, I told myself. And thus began another chapter in my journey to make money on the internet.

As a newbie seller, I had no experience at all in cyber selling. Hence I had enlist the help of my good friend, Jourdan, an up-and-coming eBay seller with an impeccable record of 100% positive feedback, to piggyback his place for the sale. After the necessary photo shoots and write-up, it was posted in eBay. And know what? In less than 24 hours there was a bidder. Hey, to a newbie like me, that's a pretty big milestone, okay? RM699.00! Wow, that's better than selling it off as scrap iron or ending up as an antique for my great-great grandson.

The next few days saw me hitting the eBay sites almost every hour to check on the status, expecting an avalanche of bidders. Alas, bidder #1 stood alone in the field for several days. Maybe some bidders only move in for the kill at the last minutes, I consoled myself. Suddenly one afternoon Jourdan called excitedly and told me there is another bidder and its upped to RM800 !!! A jump of RM100 ringgit! Cool! I knew I could sell this phone easily. Now thing's gonna get interesting, as I hunkered down for more action as the clock started ticking.....24 hours.....12 hours.....c'mon, some more bidding, please...6 hours, now for some fireworks.....3 hours.....2 hours....1 hour...pffffffttttttt.

No counterbid from #1 either!!! Oh well, at least I got a good price, trying to mitigate the gloomy atmosphere, I called up Jourdan to solicit some sympathy. Turn out he was disappointed too. Anyway, he had to get down to work. First thing is to email the winning bidder and set up an initial contact. And know what? She was all the way form California! Cool! Maybe she's a black R&B singer, or a foxy career lady, or a hot babe form UCLA...gosh, what was I thinking!!!

Soon enough, she replied! She's an American working in England and she wanted to buy it for her son in Nigeria. Super cool!!! My first eBay sales has taken me to the realm of international trade. Who says international trade are for the big boys? Jourdan was excited too. But much works need to be done: Call up the courier people on the tariff, polish up the phone, get the accessories ready and get the original box if possible, the packing, etc etc. We want to look professional! After all Jourdan has a reputation to keep. More emails ensued.

Now we came to the nitty gritty. How to effect payment and also to ensure protection of the buyer. Madam USA told us that she'd bank in London's Standard Chartered Bank and the bank will forward a email to me informing us of the successful bank in. And the bank will release the money to our bank account once our documents from the courier company is faxed to her. Hmmm... fair enough. After all, its Standard Chartered Bank, not ABC Rojak Bank.

Soon enough, an email arrived from a Ken Cooper, an official from the Stanchart Bank congratulating us on the successful deal, with logo of Stanchart emblazoned boldly on the banner. It was really impressive. But one thing didnt seem right, I told Jourdan. This lady bid RM800 and was willing to foot the hefty courier bill of almost RM400, making my used Nokia 9300 costing almost RM1,200 !!! The price of a brand new set! I know the love of a mother for her son knows no bound but this fly in the face of logic. The 9300i may be a real cool gadget, but for that price, a plethora of much more glittering models are on display in the showcase everywhere.
Maybe that kid is a spoilt brat, or he has a fetish for 9300i, which in its heyday actually attained cult status of sorts. Maybe, maybes. Oh what the heck, let's just send it, I told Jourdan.

Now about this Jourdan dude, I have to digress a bit here, it would be quite an understatement to say he's net savvy. Having been hooked to the net since 1995 (?) this make him quite a grandpa netizen. He's got websites, he's got blogs, he's into eBay, he's into making real money in the internet, yep, that too! He's a been-there-done-that guy. So when a situation like that is presented before him, he kind of smell a rat, so to speak.

So he told me he was going to do some Sherlock Holmes works first to check on the authenticity of this foxy lady. I dont how he did it, but he did it. Soon enough, Jourdan called in again. "Hold your horse, buddy" he said "Foxy lady is a fraudster!". I was at home already, in the kitchen, one hand with a spatula and the other a frying pan trying to cook dinner for my grumbling daughter and my niece. Luckily only the spatula and my jaw dropped. "What?" I shrieked, "that scumbag, slimeball, @#$%^&*!!". Jourdan had actually called up Standchart in London, and was advised by them that there is such a scam now being perpetrated by unscrupulous people in eBay, and told us not to entertain them.

Bump! In one stroke, my international business came crashing down to earth. "Hello?...James, are you okay?" Jourdan sounded worried. I resumed my composure. "Yeah, no problem, we'll talk later, okay?". Click.

So there you go. My cyber adventure, chapter two. But I'm happy really, like when my battery went flat when I was about to call my remisier to place 50 lots and the market melted the next day, remember? What do they call that? A blessing in disguise? Whatever. But you will not hear the last of me, Mr. Internet, I'm going to get you one day.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The bitch

I dont know when she turned up at my driveway, but this mongrel had been around my neighbourhood for quite some time already, together with two other bitches. Of course I know they're bitches as I can see the row of pendulous nipples dangling when they walk. And the males are easy to spot too, besides the absence of the mammary glands, their sex is determined by the wildly swinging balls knocking at each other at the rear when they're chasing after cars out of boredom.

One day, my niece, who lives just a shout away, ran excitedly to me saying that a bitch had given birth to three puppies somewhere under the tree in a padang near our house. Oh oh.... I thought, I neednt be a mind reader to decipher her intention. She was going to keep one of the puppy, and Zidan, her classmate living next door (father must be a football nut or a bookie) was to keep the other two.Normally I wont give two hoots to such petty pursuit, but the last time her pet rabbit, and a big fat one too, was ran over by a car when it escaped, I had the grisly job of disposing the carcass, beside cajoling her (my niece) not to cry, without much success. In desperation, I said "Alright, we'll get a puppy for you...."before I finished the sentence, she looked up wide-eyed, grinningly asked "when?"I groaned and "erm...we'll see". That, to a ten-year-old means "Yay! definitely we will be getting a puppy very soon". Sigh....the price one pays for being a favourite uncle.

And so there it was, a whining, whimpering little mass of white furry ball, hardly able to walk and peeing every two seconds onto the floor, pillow, newpapers and goodness knows what next. And worse, I had to drive to the neighbouring sundry store to buy a baby feeding bottle for that critter! And pronto! Wild thoughts must be racing through the minds of the shop cashier, Did his wife just gave birth? But her tummy was flat when I saw her last week? Or heaven forbid: He's a grandfather now? Sheepishly I paid and hurried out amidst what I percieved to be stifled sniggers behind me. Sigh... the things I do for love.

Mercifully, I was spared the chores of feeding the little thing and cleaning up the poop and what nots.

Days passed and the christianing of the puppy had my niece and her mother, my sister, arguing what to call the little bitch. Lobby? Whiskey? Lassie? Aaargh, what a headache! Why dont you just google "names for dogs" I told my niece, Joanne. Don't bother, my sister cut in, just call her "Snowball" And that was it.

By now, Snowball is three months old already, and I'm beginning to like her. Whenever I visit them after work, I just walk over to them and Snowball would leap and lick at me like crazy. If only my wife were so ecstatic on seeing me coming home, I thought. Anyway, being welcomed in such a joyful way can make a stress-out man happy, no? No wonder people in stress prone city keep pets, its really therapeutic.

I know, I should be putting up Snowball's photos up here, but regretably I havent shot her.... err, I mean taken a photograph of her. But its definitely coming up. You're gonna love it. Wait, I'd do better than that, I'll put it in youtube for you folks to enjoy (my way of baiting you guys to visit my blogspot mah!)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blog can make money? (Part 2)

Welcome back! Now where were we before we were interupted by the melee around the registration desk masquerading as the hospitality desk and horde of attendees crowding like a rugby scrum exhibiting the worst kiasuism you'd ever seen this side of the South China Sea. Yes, the signing up. I was more eager than a hungry beaver! I did not sign up not because I didnt want to. I did not sign up because my credit eards had exceeded their meagre limit because of of my horrendous record of repayment. But that, on hindsight, proved to be a blessing in disguise, as you will see as I ramble on.

They say procratination is the thief of time. How true! However my seeming lukewarm approach was not without reason. In my three decades of working life, I'd witnessed on dozens of occations during which such "peddlers of dream/fantasies" sweet-talked, hoodwinked, cajoled, and inspired naive, wide-eyed, and, I'm sorry, gullible, men and women into parting their hard earn savings, and often borrowed money into schemes like stocking up cookwares, health supplements (invariably that can cure cancers, aids and solve infertility and so on), get rich quick financial schemes and, gosh, I'm out of breath. You get my drift now?

So how did I, the smart-alec witness for three decades of countless men and women, who had their dreams shattered along the way, got conned into signing up not RM30.00, not RM300.00 but Malaysian Ringgit Three thousand two hundred and seventy five only to attend a one day seminar of electrifying, earth-shattering, life-changing proportion? You know, its really funny, if I tell you a lie one time, you'd wont believe it, fair enough. But if I tell you a lie for thirty years, it became the gospal truth! A battle-hardened old dog finally falling for the bait at last!

One thing you notice about those peddlers of dreams, they are very persistent, and highly motivated and dont give up easily, attributes which I really admire. But I did my little observation too. Look at the Forbes List of the richest people in America. The latest list had just been published and it goes like this, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Sheldon Adelson, Lawrence Ellison, Paul Allen, Larry Page, Sergei Brin, Michael Dell, and the Waltons. Notice something? Of the top ten richest Americans, ALL except Buffet, Adelson and the Walton are not into Information Technology. Thats it. I told myself, this is for real. Those dudes are not at the top of the heap by coincidence, they made their bundle riding on the back of one of the most spectacular economic phenomenon history had ever seen: Information Technology. Now would you say I'd be foolhardy to take the plunge into the most explosive money making activity of man since he start to barter along the river banks of Mesopotamia, Nile or Indus?

And why for crying out loud, here I am, a witness of countless weeping men and women who'd lost their shirts, and who most steadfastly vouch for the viablity of modern on-line money making wizardry, and who had already taken the plunge, spurn and denounced the bunch of high priests of internet the like of Stephen Pierce, the Tans and so on? Alright, I would not like to make this whole thing so spectacular and thus taxing your imagination to its limits. The answer is I'm still learning!!! Hey, I know its a whimpering anti-climax, and I seek your forgiveness. Let me make up for that in my next instalment, where the frustration of learning gives way to discovery, where the light at the end of the tunnel flickered and dimmed then flickered again, not bright enough yet, but hopefully will be soon. So stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Blog can make money? (Part 1)

Blah! Gimme a break. I've already been blogging for one year and I'm still driving a car that's been registered last centuty. You think I dont fancy burning rubber down the highway in a Porsche 911? Let me tell you the story why I dont buy that crap.

Let me begin by saying that I'm no computer geek, though I do love surfing the net and read other people's web site, but would never have thought I'd one day be the author of a website, let alone making some bread out of it. So it struck me like a thunderbolt when I read an ad that say something to this effect: Be fabulously rich even though you know nothing of computer by attending a FREE seminar......... Geesh, I wish I could end that sentence with "and the rest is history", but not yet, hear me out as this is not going to take a whole afternoon.

One week later, I was sitting in a meeting room with 40 or so millionnaire wannabes, wide-eyed and lending our ears most gratefully to a thirty something dude from... I cant remember where. As he spoke on the wonder of internet and how thousands of people had make a bundle selling something, we were transported to a fantasy world where struggling to pay home mortgage, car instalment, or whatever debt one has is a thing of the past, and life from then on is the sound of champagne glasses clinking, and family members' laughters beside your private swimming pool on a lazy monday afternoon and so on. However we were brought down to earth temporarily with the announcement that we have to pay Malaysian Ringgit One Thousand Four Hundred only to have the privilage of making this dream a reality, and seat availabity is extremely limited for this three-day life-changing seminars. Simple rationale dictated that an investment of forteen hundred bucks that net untold millions all attendees be falling over each other to sign up. The poor clerk at the sign up desk, she lost four ball pens, had her hair tousled and most certainly missed her lunch, much to the satisfaction of her boss. We were told to congregate again in two weeks time, together with a few hundred of like minded visionaries like us.

Indeed it was a day to look forward to! On the appointed day, there was an air of excitement as about two hundred of us milled outside the conference hall, as the huge mahogany doors of the hall was flung open, triumphant music was trumpeted as we trooped in to take up our seats. Men, women, retirees, teenagers clapping hand and giving standing ovation at the entrance of a group of internet gurus, about ten in all, all expert in their field, blogging expert, search engine experts, adsense experts and all the goblydygook. As the emcees introduce them one by one, our spirits higher than Discovery spacecraft. This it is! We're going to be RICH!!!

Finally, after much fanfare in introducing the speakers and the mandatory round of motivational double speak (which I consider as crap as I was impatient for the real stuff to come out), we got down to business. The first to speak was Raymond Tan, the dude who enticed us to part the forteen hundred for this session. As he spoke, we were again tranported to a world of internet wizardry of making money online. But wait, why is this dude droning on and on with what sound like a sale pitch? Where's the beef, I asked myself hoping that it would come in the end. But nol. The whole presentation was a descriptive on how to make money on line and not a hands-on, show-it-to-you-now intruction. "And to know how to actually hands-on step-by-step make money on line, please go to the sales desk outside this room and report your intention to my assistant Michelle" (or was it Tiffany?) The heck I will sign up. We still have Ben and Adam, and Terence Tan, Fabian Lim, Patric Chan, and the super duper guru of them all, Stephen Pierce, who flew half the globe away from the US.

Next, was Fabian Lim, a Singaporean magician turn internet guru, who tout his achievenmet obtaining a pilot licence in a record time of 30 day(?). Big Deal. But surpringly this guy, I dont know, he must have cast a magical spell on us attendees that by the end of his presentation, a mini stampede was seen at the sign up desk for his course, and each aspirant to his magic formula to wealth must cough up Ringgit Malaysian Two thousand something only. End of Day One.

By now, it had dawn on me that we were actually paying to listen to advertisement sales pitches cleverly disguised in a kind of "Three-day-Seminar". And this was made profoundly clear to me as the "seminar" progressed, as you can see as you read on.

Day two was pretty much the same as one sales presentation follow another by different speaker and everytime at the end of the presentation, another round of melee crowded the sign up desk. Imagine a throng of frenzied men and women crowding a table 4' x 3' and you know what I mean. The kiasu mentality is not the monopoly of Singaporean, I guess we Malaysain share the same gene as them.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Kuching Festival

It is 5pm and still the oppressive heat of the day has still not subsided, but stall owners are already arriving with their wares and food arranging them in partitioned off stalls lined up in an open space beside the Council building. This almost two football field size ground is gaily decorated with about 200 food stalls selling all manners of food that this city is famous for. Welcome to the Kuching Festival!

For three weeks, this colourful fair will open its gate to thousands of visitors from 6.30 pm onward to avoid the steaming heat of the day. By dusk, the weather will be sufficiently cool down to entice people to browse the numerous cubicles selling mostly food like laksa, satay, fried noodle, dim sum and many others. The main theme of the festival seems to be: Food , and more food!

By 7pm the crowd starts to arrive. Adults with children shouting with glee at baloon venders, wide eye, up- country teenagers in town for a day purposely to attend this event, Grandpa and grandmas accompanied by their middle aged shildren and grandchildren. Cooing courting couples sharing a cone of ice cream, a bunch of giggling schoolgirls, even a lone vagrant whom everybody give a wide berth. There is a stage erected at one corner where a crowd converged to watch a slap stick comedy sketch, to be followed by a singing competition later. The din compounded by the stage loudspeakers has now reach its peak and conversation has to be raised a notch to be intelligible.

The partition off stalls are arranged in a straight line along the perimeter of the ground facing the open space where hundred of table and chairs are provided for al fresco dining/eating. Shoppers only need to browse the food, get their order on the spot and carry their own food to an empty table, plonk thier food down and tuck in! Its simple as that. But you have to elbow your way to get at the food as there aare others who are as hungry as you are! And be ready for strangers ogling at your food and some admirers might even have the temerity to ask you which stall you bought your fare!

Baring in mind the whole fair is swarming with people thus getting an empty table often become a real hassle, thus you may have to appoint among your mates who to be the maitre d', so you saunter around and spot a table where the occupants seem to have almost finished eating, then you have to stand nonchalantly next to the table, and jump into a seat like playing musical chair once they got up to leave! That way you "claim" the table for your use even though your friend are still taking their pick with the food. Now come the hard part, triumphantly telling them you've succeed in getting a table but where, as the whole ground is almost a melee. Luckily cell phones come to the rescue and you tell them youre near the big neon sign of Carlberg Beer or the Coca cola soft drink stand. While you sit alone guarding your territory, others with food packet in their hands glare at you in envy. Some cheeky ones might even grap a seat despite you telling him the table is taken, grumbling that your mates wouldnt even return by the time he finishes his chicken wings, while you wait helplessly for what seem like eternity for them to come back with the food.

Finally, they appear grinning, sweating profusely hands full of glorious food. Now comes the enjoyment part. Good friends, great food, gaity atmostphere, and plenty of sweating, what more could one ask for. Unfortunately the crowd is getting denser by now and you may have a few "nonchalant" bystanders with shifty eyes but you try to ignore them, sometimes they give up, but a few may persisit with the tenacity of a vulture. And when all good food have come to an end, after dinner conversation have to give way to civic mindedness as you all got up to surrender your turf.

As you get to leave the ground, you may want to give it a last look around in case you miss something worth buying. Its like last minute shopping at the duty free airport shop before the loudspeaker announce the plane's departure! Finally after squeezing through the crowd with tousled hair and sweat smelling clothes you emerged from the exit. But your sigh of relief was shortlived as you watch in dismay as you have to wade you way thru the surging crowd to your car in the crammed car park, and you and your friends groan in unison at the propect of driving in gridlocked road back home. But, what the heck, it's just once a year and your love your tummy so much you'd sacrifiy anything to keep it happy!
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Friday, April 27, 2007

Bloody hell, if I knew blood donation was this easy!!!

Donating blood - a first hand experience

I had been contemplating for quite some time already, to do it or not to do it. I've seen people in shopping mall, spontaneously queuing up to donate blood as if they were about to board a bus, but just could'nt imagine myself lying on the makeshift canvas bed bloodletting myself. No way, its too gory and my wife is not much of an inspiration either, being faint prone when she sees blood.

One day, again in a shopping complex, there was another of these excercise and my wife was squirming as we passed by several rows of blood donors lying down to give their blood. I did'nt know what came over me but I stood forward and announced to the officer of the Red Crescent I wanted to donate too. My wife's stared at me dumbfounded, while I grinned sheepishly back at her. When the hospital guy got my name down on the slip of paper, I thought to myself : Thats it. there is no turning back!
I sat for what seemed like ages waiting for my turn to come and at the same time trying not to think too much about it, twiddling my thumbs and looking up at the ceiling. My wife was nowhere to be seen, having muttered she'd be back after buying the dress "just nearby only", so much for "in sickness and in health". Suddenly a smiling white shirt "nurse" tapped my shoulder saying "Your turn, Sir!" That's it! I'm doomed! The moment of truth! Can I back out now? No ! Thats would mean I'm a wimp and I'm not a wimp!
So, down I laid on the portable bed as Miss Nurse tried to look as benevolent as possible and with assuring tone told me to relax as she prepared a plastic bag to store my blood. I looked at the bag with dismay. That much? "D-do I have to fill up the bag f-fully?" I stammered to the nurse. "Yes sir" I thought she replied mischeviously as she took out the syringe. Don't ask me what happen from this point onward as I had my eyes shut tight till there was pat on my arm by the nurse, "It's done, sir". but to her credit, I must say there was no pain at all except like a pin prick.

I sat up, and there it was, my blood, nicely and securely "ta pau" in a plastic bag ready to save the life of somebody whom I'll never know, but it did'nt mattered, I've done my duty as a good Samaritan and hopefully will pluck enough courage to do it again. Now where is my wife?

Spitters & sneezers unmake my day

Of spitting and sneezing in eating places

Malaysian's table manner has sink to record low nowadays. Going to eat at public places nowadays mean having to endure the boorish antics of people sitting near to you and having your food laden with various virus, as if the kinds from birds and mad cow are not enough to spice them up.

I was tucking into my bah kut teh one morning in a coffee shop and there was this gentleman, obviously an office worker judging by his dress, just stting three feet away from me, he sudden heaved and "ah choooo!!!". No handkerchief, no hand covering his mouth, just plain sneeze into the air!!! I could feel the droplets of his outburst settling on my skin. Needless to say my appitite was doused and I left without eating. And that guy did'nt have the courtesy to look around and see the displeasure he had caused or apologized.

Another of my pet peeve is indiscrimate spitting. And Malaysian just love to spit! On too many occations already, when I was walking along the five foot way, there were people, most men, would "gaaaarggg....ptuuuiiiii!!!!" onto the floor, oblivious such a blob of slippery lubricant can cause a hobbling grandma to slip.

If you are reading this and include the above two mentioned habits as your pastime, please, may I suggest you indulge them in the privacy of your own home? Sneeze into the faces of your children or your pet, its quite fun to laugh and clean up later. Spit anywhere in the sitting room, sofa or besides the wash basin for a change, you have a maid/wife/mother to mop them up, isnt it?

Why you low down, double parking, no good son of a gun!

If you think spitters and sneezers spoil you weekend at the mall, wait till you get out of the shopping complex and step on to a typical Malaysian car parking lot. Now a parking lot is a place where lines are nicely drawn up and you are expected to park neatly, right? Wrong! This is the shared view of a seemingly large section of Malaysian drivers.

Let us categorize the first group of these so called drivers as "Crossed Eye Jack". Now Jack is a nice family man who would jump into his Rexton the moment his wife hollers "we're out of mosquito coils!". Unfortunately Jack is gifted with a line of sight that enable him to see a fly landing on the bridge of his nose perfectly, but alas parking a car properly is a touch-and-go affair, ie , he always parks his car at the right centre of the dividing line of the space, ie, he takes up two parking spaces. Many drivers have perfect eyesight but we have to call them by this nickname too. Sorry Ah Beng, Muthu and Ahmad.

Next is Mr Bangkok Park. This F1 driver wannabe is always in a hurry, a burn rubber, devil-may-care type, that swings into a parking space with a screeching halt and at exactly 45 degree angle of the parking lot. He doesnt bother to reverse and park in nicely and when confronted, retorts by rolling up his t-shirt sleeve revealing a full tattoo of a prancing dragon : "Ai yah.... never mind lah, I only park for 3 hours, not a whole afternoon" or worse: "You got a problem with my parking?"

Then comes Mr Tight Squeeze, who must have assumed you are a circus contortionist. In fact he's parked so near that both his and your wing mirrors are giving each other high fives.. You had to climb into your car through the window like a stock car driver, while he (on the driver's side) gets out easily with space wide enough to load a washing machine. And the worse thing is, yours is a brand new BMW 7-series and his is a rusting, clunker of a van with an extendable ladder tied to the roof. So you had to reverse gingerly while your wife and some sympthetic bystanders wave franticallly with their hand shouting "gostan....gostan.....gostan....oooopppp!!!"

Finally enters Mr. Tidakapathy a.k.a. Mr Sloth, whose real name is Ah Beng. This tooth pick biting, nose picking dude always parks at the entrance of the building even though he sees empty parking spaces two spits away, and in the process, always double parks or at a perpenticular angle blocking other parked cars' exit. His rationale is simple: he's here to attend show at the cineplex with his family," no big deal what". Two hours later and an exasperated P.A. announcers with a hoarse voice finally located Mr Tardy, he saunders out nonchalantly to find the commotion surrounding his car, Finally realising his oversight, he proceed with the speed of a wounded koala bear to remove his offending car. While the wronged parties shake fists at our hero for making them waitng for two hours, he vehemently protested "where got two hours? My watch shows only 1 hours 45 minutes only leh" and in the same breath mutters unhappily about something like "interupting his family's dinner at the KFC". Apparently, apology is not required here as he is also being wronged. Fair and square.

Dear fellow Malaysian, which category of driver do you belong to?