Monday, 30 June 2008

Ibu for a change?

Let me make it short. Today is Monday and I am sure as hell tired of working long hours. But since I get to come back earlier than usual, I will just comment about the latest talk of the town.

Everyone is talking about sodomy nowadays. Well, Saiful, you did well. You made a headline of yourself riding on the back of Anwar's fame. His bad back.

While PKR blames UMNO as the mastermind behind this "smear campaign", UMNO denies their involvement. It is afterall normal for those accused to deny the allegations right?


Personally, I am tired of all these political charades. We have enough Bapas' leading this nation anyway and look at how screwed things are now. For better or worse, we need a change. Perhaps we can have an Ibu to lead this country instead. I think of all the people that demonstrated true humility and care for the nation, Wan Azizah should be THE person to be the 6th Prime Minister of Malaysia.

There I said it, I feel much better now. Tomorrow is afterall another long day. Good night...:)

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Bak Zhang: My Memory Of My Grandma

It was that time of the year and in keeping with the tradition of old, I have set aside time to make bak zhang, a glutinous rice dumpling packed into bamboo leaves a fortnight ago. I have contemplated long and hard wondering if I should continue making it as the amount of time taken is tenuously long and perhaps, it could be better spent doing something else.

I made about 120+ bak zhang this year, shy of my previous year's record of about 220 pieces. I didn't do it alone of course, I was assisted by my mother-in-law simply because there are many things to prepare prior to the actual wrapping (such as soaking the rice, beans, mushrooms and chestnuts). Few appreciate the processes involved and many wondered if it is at all necessary (like the part of frying the rice with flavouring and beans where the required flavour will be evenly spread and "locked in").

Some like, myrrkat complained about a certain bean I used (since she doesn't like it as it gave her headaches) but I doubt I will change my ingredients. It is not pride mind you, but rather, it is a practice I have been taught and I intend to preserve it.

About a hundred years ago, there was no oyster sauce. I doubt the makers of bak zhang then would have included that flavouring. Instead, they would have used real oysters. But today, I can tell you that many use that sauce in place of real oysters.

But the back breaking process makes me wonder, is it worth the effort? I know after frying all the necessary ingredients, I could hardly stand to wrap and tie the dumplings. My back hurt a lot. It took me a few days to recover. I blame it on lack of exercise and age but then, I have not forgotten why I started this.

I missed the bak zhang my grandma made. I remember when I am in my preteens, I rush downstairs one fine morning wondering what is the commotion is and realised my grandparents and my mom are busy wrapping the banana leaves bak zhangs. It was a massive operation where each are assigned with a specific task, my grandpa manned the cooking part while my grandma and mom wrapped the bak zhangs. Theirs were simpler, no frying of rice to "lock in" the flavour and putting the other ingredients in raw. The drawback is, which I realised only when I started making my own, it takes at least another hour longer to cook it if we don't fry the ingredients (and less tasty as well).

I always loved waiting for the first batch of bak zhangs being drawn out from the boiling pot where one will be opened and served to taste if it was cooked. Back then, one can't get to eat bak zhang all the time. It is only around the 5th day 5th lunar month celebration that one will have bak zhang (much like eating mooncakes around the mid-autumn festival). Seriously, the rest of the week was all about eating bak zhang. You can bring bak zhang to school (and those days, people weren't too particular about eating non-halal food in school) or eat for breakfast and lunch and dinner. In fact, you can even have one for tea break.

Alas, those days have long gone. She died about a decade ago though she has ceased making bak zhangs for a much longer time that that. In fact, my interest in cooking stem from the fact that I moved out from my uncle's house almost 2 decades ago. You see, it was not just physical distance separated us but I grew up in those critical teenhood years without her. During those period, I grew apart and she seemed like a stranger by the time she moved in to stay with us. Not too long later, she died, a sad lady with dementia who clinged on to life and her sanity while waiting for me to return to Malaysia in between semester breaks.

About a month or so before I return to Malaysia, my grandma slipped and fell on the pavement while waiting for a bus and she went into a dementia like state. With little what modern medicine can help as well as her advanced age, my parents took her to an acupuncturist. She responded too well and recovered her memory quite quickly and the acupuncturist warned this is not a good sign and her days are numbered.

On seeing me return at last, she was very glad. My parents told me what happened and I managed to spend some time with her. Sadly, in the following weeks, her mental state began to degenerate. The night before she died, she kept screaming my name to let her out from her locked room. She wanted to go to her favourite place at wee hours in the morning which we knew was an impossibility. We tried calming her down but to no avail. She later gave up out of tiredness and laid down on her bed. We were relieved and called it a night.

The next morning, I woke up with a feeling something was amiss. I went to my grandma's room. It was too quiet. I called out her name but there was no response. I knocked and opened the door. She was lying there on the bed. I tried to wake her up by lightly nudging her shoulders but there was no response. Her hands were cold and there was no longer any heartbeat. She has left us for good. All I could do is walk out and inform my parents. I was very heartbroken as I was not by her side at those moments before her final departure.

Before we moved out from my uncle place in my preteen years, I took my grandma's cooking for granted where everyday without fail there would be lunch and dinner on the table. When my family finally moved into our own house and my mom had to work till 10 pm everyday, I have to occasionally replace my mom to cook dinner for my family other than the frequent eat outs. My grandparents stayed on for a few years with my uncle's family before finally moving out to stay with us. By then, we have a maid to do the cooking for all of us.

I realised that putting food on the table is not just about satisfying our bodily needs. It is when my family and I eat together on the dining table, we build our bonds as a basic unit in the society. We can't chose our grandparents, parents, brothers and/or sisters, but we can certainly forge our ties closer. Now that my grandma is no longer here, there is only one dish I look forward to making in memory of her loving efforts all those years i.e. bak zhang.

I often wonder whether homemade zhangs will fade away only to be found in restaurants and roadside stalls someday. I certainly hope not as homemade bak zhang symbolise to me more than a customary annual event dish. It is a reminiscent of happy memories of a home and extended family I grew up in and belong to; of my grandma who loved me unconditionally.

It may be rare for men to make bak zhang, but what is a little backache to compare to those memories? Or the smiles on the faces of those who enjoyed it, even if it is only a fleeting moment?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

SAPP No Confidence Motion - Has It Started The Ball Rolling?

Has the ball started rolling with SAPP's announcement? Will the path for PR to take the executive power finally be cleared?

Well, Nasri obviously doesn't think it is possible to do the no-confidence motion on Monday. According to him, the shortest possible notice to be given requires evocation of Standing Order Rule 18(1) where the emergence motion has to have a definite matter, urgent and of public interest but he qualifies that the Speaker is the one who makes the call.


From the way he said it, doesn't it makes one wonder, isn't this a definite matter as the PM lost the confidence of some of his soon to be former colleagues hence he shouldn't test if he still has the majority support? And that it is urgent since the rakyat's suffering needs to be addressed since like yesterday? And of course, which public here wouldn't be interested to finally get to see real changes since Mr Big Ears have not fulfilled most, if not all his promises? So what is the Speaker's excuse?

Meanwhile, being an old hand in politics, Uncle Lim sees little possibility for that to happen to since the Speaker would be at loggerhead with the BN-led federal government while Karpal wonders SAPP has enough numbers. The Sun today quoted Shahrir where he felt the the chances for it to be tabled will be "between nil and impossible."

As for me, even if it cannot be done on Monday, the present government will survive for another 14 days before it faces the reality of the situation. There will be much political jockeying and statements made in the next 14 days. And all this is because of March 8 results and refusal to accept the reality of the situation. Tsk, tsk, tsk...

I wonder what is Dr M's insight into this? Just checked his blog but there is nothing so far. Hmm...

Oh well, Malaysia waited 50 years for this, what is another 2 weeks?

Meanwhile, the rakyat continue to suffer under all these sandiwaras wondering how to make ends meet since their belt has no more holes to fasten to while GLC CEOs under Khazanah stable are going to see very substantive pay increase this year.

Such is Bolehland...

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

If You Want To Be One, Start Doing Like One

Someone in Petronas must have screwed up. Seriously, who would dare to make their CEO look like an idiot when he makes claims about something published on the company's website when it is actually not there?

Here's the website he said where you can find the accounts from 2002:

He even claimed that Petronas behaves like a public-listed company in publishing their report (see here). I presume he implied the report contained the full minimum disclosure required under Bursa Malaysia listing requirements? Just make a comparison with any companies listed with the following website:

So if you examine closely their annual reports, I think they don't just show balance sheet and profit and loss statements, they also disclose cash flow statements, statement of changes in equity, notes to financial statements, directors' and auditor's report and so on. Good example is when you look at Petronas' 2007 annual report attempting to do a listed-co's typical disclosures. It stated there under its Table of Contents you can find the "Financial Statements" from page 81-165. And if you scroll down, you should find page 81 to 165 right? Sadly, it stops at page 80. I tried checking 2006's and 2005's. There are no mention of financial statements at all.

Of course, when the rakyat clamour for accounts, they are expecting Petronas to publish their audited financial statements. In fact, if Petronas compete for Nacra award, they would disclose even more like Public Bank's voluntary disclosures which ensures they regularly win their Nacra awards.

So someone must have screwed up in Petronas. I can't imagine the wrath of their CEO knowing he has been made a fool. In normal circumstances, there will be someone who gets reprimanded/demoted/sacked for slacking in his/her function.

But then again, this is Bolehland.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

It Was Only 10 minutes For Me

When I walked into the post office on Saturday morning to claim my petrol rebate, I was expecting to see a long beeline of people lining up waiting to collect their monies. It is only reasonable since we are only taking back what is rightfully ours to begin with and RM625 is no small sum more so thousands who are entitled for it. Anyway, I choose an obscure post office tuck away in a least expected area where most are unaware that a post office can be found in such a publicly accessible location i.e. Puduraya bus station. I was hoping the beeline would be like 20 to 30 people.


Instead, to my surprise, I was the second "customer" being served with no beeline. A lady with a sweet smile approached and asked if I am here for the petrol subsidy. I said yes and she gave me a form. She told me to fill it up and take my number. Being kiasu, I took the ticket.

And surprise, surprise, the whole think too me less than 10 minutes and I was elated to be handed with RM625. Did I hit a jackpot in terms of getting quick and efficient service from a quasi government department?

Meanwhile, my wife walked in not too long after. By then, there were about 3 to 4 other customers after her who intend on getting their subsidies too. You can see their happy faces. One even commented after getting the ticket that before he could sit down, his number was called. Things were moving quickly.

After my wife collected her petrol rebate, she told me the courteous and chatty counter person told her that apparently, there was a long queue before we walked in. Perhaps it was prophetic or just being cynical, apparently the system did go down for 30 minutes and the crowd left. We were lucky to walk in shortly after the system came back online.

In some ways, we are glad to be served so quickly (Praise the Lord for that!). But imagine the poor souls who have to wait for hours waiting for the post office to open in other places only to be told the system is down. My friend told me when she went to the Old Klang Road Post Office at noon, her ticket number indicated she has to wait for another 300 people to be served first. And there weren't even 300 people there!

While waiting, she casually chatted with another petrol rebate claimer and found out that lady took her number at around 9.30 am (who was still waiting for her turn then). That lady told her that most people left and came back later. Then, the lady was kind enough to give her a ticket. She looked and realised it was only about 30 plus people ahead of her. The lady apparently took two numbers by accident. As a result, my friend only waited for half an hour. Needless to say, she thanked the Lord too...:)

But to be fair, true to what Pos Malaysia said, we took about 3 minutes to be served at the counter. Pos Malaysia deserves our appreciation for that.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

How to Get Your Petrol Rebate!

Do you own a car with up to 2,000 CC engine? Or a pick-up truck or jeep with up to 2,500 CC engine? How about motorcycle with up to 250 CC engine?

If you answer yes to the above, you are entitled to a rebate amounted to RM625 for the 4 wheelers while RM150 for 2 wheelers. Provided of course your vehicle are powered by either diesel or petrol.

For those owners like me who recently renew you vehicle's road tax (between 1 April 2008 to 31 May 2008), you are entitled to claim the rebates from the post office near you from this Saturday onwards.


If you are just as lost as I am on how to go about doing it, well, I just received an e-mail from my colleague on how to go about doing it. Basically, you (as in the vehicle owner) need to bring along your original MyKad / Army Card / Police Card and fill up a form in the post office. Once you submitted your form and your identification card to the counter, they will scan your fingerprint for verification. Once it is confirmed that you are you, you will receive your cash rebate.

It sounded simple right? As a precautionary measure, please bring your original car registration card and/or insurance documents proving you own that vehicle.

You may never know you are so "fortunate" to be told the online system is down and you have to come back another day. This is of course not a guarantee but at least you can try to argue your case at the counter and hopefully you get paid.

Otherwise, well, this is still Bolehland.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Will The Hill Ever Be Enough?

Finally my best friend wedded last Saturday. I am so glad because he has been in love with the same lady for a longer duration than I have with my wife and to finally watch them enter into a commitment for life is something I have longed for. I can tell you there are silent prayers than go out not too long ago that this knot be finally tied and praise be to the Lord that it did!...:)
Unlike my own wedding, I didn't quite participate much in his. I did help out here and there but I feel kind of bad because I was never heavily involved from the beginning till the end (then again, I know I am a control freak so it is best I don't ruin his...:P). My only consolation is when I saw the montage, he specially thanked both my wife and I for making the montage possible (btw, we took the easy route, we hired a professional to take the photos and make it into a montage).

One thing I noticed about the montage is that the pictures of their childhood days till the day they grew up and met have been inserted there for all to see. I realised I never saw their childhood photos. Come to think of it, I have lost touch with all my childhood friends. Those were the simpler days where RM5 can buy you good plastic toys in pasar malam on Friday nights and certainly pay meals for more than 1 person. Can the same be said of that value of RM5 today?

Got this from an e-mail forwarded by Seaqueen. Apparently, this is what her piggy bank looked like after the petrol price hike...:P

I am not sure about you but I have been taught the virtue of savings from young. Being frugal and worked the extra hours were what my grandpa did to save enough to buy his coffee shop. But I wonder, is this a virtue which we should teach our children today in light of this era of high inflation?

Think of it this way, how will the old adage, "Sedikit demi sedikit, lama lama menjadi bukit" apply when the money you save today would very well be worth less in a year's time?

Also, by teaching our young ones to save in the tabung where it earns next to nothing, how will he/she afford to buy what he/she wants? He/she may look at the price of the teddy today which probably worth RM200 and start saving RM1 a day, by the time he/she saves enough, the teddy might cost more than RM200. It is a moving goalpost which ultimately places him/her worse off than before.

Similarly, if we tell him/her to save to buy a house, he/she must be really frugal and save a lot just so as he/she can afford to pay for the downpayment. The next thing you know, the dream house prices would shoot up in today's economy and he/she will never be able to buy it.

With 12 month maturity fixed depost rate going at 3.7% while CPI for 2008 expected to rise to 5-6%, isn't it better to buy the things we want today rather than save for tomorrow?

So what sort of virtue will we impart to our children? Afterall, circumstances change requiring us to either adapt or perish. Similarly, shouldn't we teach them usefully soft skills early so as they will not have just one fixated idea on how to get what they wanted?

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Is the World An Excuse For Us?

Yesterday, as I was busy listening out to explanations given by a client here in Bangkok when I received 3 smses. And it was about the impending fuel hike. Yup, the 40% or 78 sens fuel price hike.

In Mahathir's era, prices were not as erratic and certainly he could afford a 5-20 sen increase. In Abdullah's era, I guess the norm is 50 sens or more given petrol price has risen from USD20s to USD120s per barrel.

After the meeting, as the driver was taking us home, I was told that here in Bangkok they pay 40 Baht per litre. That is about RM4 per litre, at least RM1.30 more than what we are paying in Malaysia. Somehow, the Thais are still driving their vehicles on the road, they are paying the higher price. Life is not exactly easier but things are more abuzz here.

Even my client mentioned Bangkok is an exciting place. Because of the unstable political scenario here, things are moving as fast as it should...yet.

In Malaysia, we have political uncertainty. And certainly, the old petrol price are unsustainable. But to hit the public with 41% increase? It is not the rich I am worried about. It is the everyday ordinary rakyat. How can they cope? This fuel hike will invariably be the cause for many more price hikes to come, be it goods or services.

The Government keep harping that it is a global phenomenon and it cannot be helped. But is that kind of explanation an end to itself? To the ordinary people who earn less than RM2K, if their petrol bill is RM200, techically, a simple calculation means they have to fork out another RM82 or 8.2% of their net pay if they are earning 2K. And of all times, it is increased now in the midst of so much uncertainties.

And I wonder what happened to demonising the Thais and Singaporeans as terrible foreigners who took advantage of our subsidied fuel? The way it is potrayed by the media is as though they contribute nothing to our local economy. Isn't it silly considering that our border economy has been shaped with these people patronising our local economy?

I am terribly confused at times. We seemed to be blaming everyone outside the country but our own. We blame the global economy and said it cannot be helped that the fuel prices are high. We blame the Singaporeans and Thais for buying our petrol and use our subsidies. But what about the IPPs that produce subsidised electricity for manufacturers that export our products cheap globally? Aren't we subsidising the rest of the world? So why pass the buck only to the rakyat? Shouldn't we at least pass some of these cost back to the rest of the world?

Or are we helpless inflation-dumping ground for the rest of the world?

Will this be the tipping point that will ultimately unravel the present rule?

I shudder to wonder what else is install for us...