Sunday, 31 May 2009

Fresh Chicken Street

The Famous Teo Chew Chendol

What do you do when relatives come to visit? Become a tourist guide of course. Now where to take them? Batu Ferringhi? Penang Hill? Snake Temple? Kek Lok Si? Balik Pulau, Botanical Garden, Gurney Drive? Yah, done all and more. Now we take them on a walk through nostalgic George Town. My wife did it with my sisters, eldest brother and his family when I was in Ahmedabad in November last year. Now my sister-in-law and son are visiting. So we took them on a 2-hour walking tour yesterday. Parked the cars at Prangin Mall (per entry is RM3 on weekend). Then started walking to our favourite Famous Penang Road Teo Chew Chendol. Actually, it's on a side street named Keng Kwee Street (yes, after one of Penang's famous gangster sons). People are really strange. There are two stalls directly opposite each other on the narrow street but one gets most of the customers and both claim to be THE famous Penang Road Chendol. Cost RM1.70 a bowl and really sweet. Yah, sometimes I have to prioritise - cut the sugar or support the local culture and small business? If you are lazy, you can also get the same thing at the ground floor of Prangin mall (near Secret Recipe).

Then we walked along Penang Road to Campbell Street, passing Chowrasta Market. Saw a chendol stall using polystyrene foam bowls. My wife reminisced that her mom would bring them all to Chowrasta by bus for pre-Chinese New Year shopping a long time ago.

Interesting sign. Campbell Street is known to the locals as "Sin Kay" which means "New Street". But "Kay" in Chinese also means "chicken". And chicken is also a euphemism for prostitutes. So the sign said that "Sin Kay" also meant "fresh chicken", i.e. prostitutes fresh from the boats.

Along the way we visited a famous dumping (Bak Chang) shop along Cintra Street but just missed the business hour by 15 minutes. My SIL learned on TV about this famous shop along "Jepun Kay" (Japan Street) - I said, huh, what japan street? Lot's of streets in George Town have local versions. Then we went looking for the Hum Chin Peng stall (Chinese pan cakes or pizza). When we were students, my wife and I used to go there on a motorbike to grab some at night. They would do the frying at their apartment and bring it on their bikes to sell at the stall along Cintra Street. There was no stall but I spotted them frying outside their apartments along a side alley so we ventured to take a look. Bought some for supper. My daugther said it's too salty - the one from Raja Uda in Butterworth is better. Hhhm, I kinda a agree.

Another old trade slowly dying out? Ah, but these two young people seems keen to continue the tradition.

As we walked along Campbell Street, we saw these "abandoned" shophouses razed by fire. The residents are moving out; businesses are losing the fight with the supermarkets. We need to bring people back or the town will die.

Majlis Agama Negeri (the State Religious Council) is a big property owner in George Town. The Majlis had wanted to demolish these shophouses for redevelopment but had a change of heart (perhaps because of the public outcry). Externally, it looks refreshed but they could have down a better job with the the "shopfront" on the ground floor. They have replaced the entire front with rolling metal shutters. I think it was a missed opportunity to bring back the nostalgia of our urban heritage. Notice the line of the first floor moving up? It's not an optical illusion. There seemed to have been some sinking over time.

Time to catch our breadth, just outside the beautiful Kapitan Kling Mosque. The building in the background is gorgeous. If you look at the first and second floor, you will notice holes below and above the windows for ventilation. I told my daughter that this is call "the street of harmony". Really? Yah, see the church at the end of the street? Then there's the Goddess of Mercy, the Indian temple, the Mosques and the various clans associations.

We walked to the High Court, St Xavier and then headed for the E&O Hotel to admire the history. They have this pictures in a cabinet which says the hotel hosted people like Rudyard Kipling and Rita Hayworth, Nobel Lauretes and many famous people. I wonder why they do not display it on wall instead of a cabinet; you have to walk behind it to see the pictures? Man, for a pricey place there were many diners enjoying their evening. I had dinner there once but didn't think the food was that good. My colleagues said it depends on how much you are willing to pay (it was USM function) so I guess we must have paid peanuts.

Had dinner at the May Garden restaurant next to Cititel. Not bad. Used to be very crowded but still enjoying a steady stream of customers.

When we reached Prangin Mall again, my son headed for McD - apparently we didn't order quite enough for 6 people.

Waking up early for Mengkuang Dam tomorrow. Was there this morning and we were quite disgusted by people feeding bread to the fish which didn't want the food so it was all floating on the water.

Friday, 29 May 2009


When I got back from my meeting in the morning, a staff brought me a plastic container and said Michael brought it for me. Which Michael? Michael Peter Foo. I opened it up and looked inside. What is it? Looks like pancakes. But its got a reused metal container with some vegetables in it. And a metal spoon. And a note which said "how to eat it? You figure it out". It's Michael, alright.

As I was driving home to share with my daughter it struck me that it was crepes!! I remember a few years back when I visited my niece in Warwick and she and her chum (Stella, I think) cooked up a feast of various types of crepes at their hostel kitchenette. Specially for me! A few years later the subject of about her making crepes came up and she reminded me that I didn't like her crepes. Huh? Did I say I didn't like it? No. But I didn't say I liked it either!

So I rolled up the vegetables in the crepes skin. There was one extra skin which I spread peanut butter on. And then I nuked it (microwave, lah). My daughter tasted half a roll with the vegetables but found it too strong (the koo chai and dried prawns). Then she tried the one with the soft dripping peanut butter in it. Ehhhmmm, very good. So I emptied a few more halves and made some more with peanut butter for her.

Thanks Michael. Wonder who made them. Girl friend? Mom? Himself?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Return to Sender

Been reading the PDF version of Natural Capitalism. Wanted to buy it in Adelaide but it wasn't on the shelves. It's an old book (1998) but should be required reading for all who aspire to be "sustainable". Also managed to pick up again "The Tipping Point" which I threw aside the last time I tried to read it because I just could take it. I had enjoyed "Blink" by the same author (Malcolm Gladwell). This time around, I could relate more to the tipping point and the things which stuck to me was "stickiness" (get it?). Somehow "The White Coffin" seems very sticky. Motorola has expressed interest to "sponsor" a similar campaign amongst the high achievers of their staff's children. The Friends of Botanical Garden Penang is organising something similar for World Environment Day. The boys at Chung Ling High School Penang has expressed interest. UTAR in Kampar called up to asked how to get things done. Hong Kong University has just initiated discussions with their caterers to stop the use of polystyrene foam. I hear MU is in discussion to go green as well. UMU Melaka had contacted. UUM, UIA, UMT, UMS have all done their bit. So, yes The White Coffin is sticky. If we had just banned polystyrene foam containers without the memorable label of The White Coffin would it have created an epidemic? (borrowing words from Gladwell). I don't know - probably not. Tipping point also talks about the Law of the Few. Just a few can spark an epidemic. That's what we are trying to do. A few infecting the many.

See the picture up there? They are not junk mail but unnecessary. One was a fax of a notice of meeting for which I had already received an email. Another was a completed form which I was emailed to check but hardcopy given to my staff to pass to me. Another was notice of closure of the museum. I sent them all back to the senders with a note saying it was unnecessary. They might be hopping up and down now. It's not only the waste of paper but multiple postings actually decreases productivity. In the case of the printed notice of meeting and the form, the admin staff have to read it, chop it, probably record it and then bring to my office. And then I have to figure out whether I have already seen it, have I read it, is there any changes, have I got it on my online calendar. By merely making sure that we don't send out stuff to people who don't need it, we can improve productivity by 20% (assuming we are productive in the first place). This mass emailing to every staff got to stop or be drastically curtailed. We have to send the notice (workshops, conference, even advertisements for jobs at UNESCO) to someone (the gatekeeper in charge of mass emails) who then sends it out, pooh, easy isn't it? Can't we just put it on the website? How many people read it? How many benefit from it? How many act on it?

It's the same thing with banners. For a half-day workshop, they put up plastic banners all over the place. Apart from telling everyone that you are at least doing something, does it bring in the crowd? Students have asked me "if no banners, how to tell the people on campus we are conducting this activity?". I honestly don't have the answer. But I am not convinced it draws the crowd - yes, maybe more people know that there is such and such activity but I doubt it brings the numbers. You can see all the empty chairs waiting to be filled. We need to be more targetted. The banners on campus is getting really out of hand.

On the bright side I went to attend the Eco USM meeting yesterday afternoon (too long, 2.40 to pass 6 pm). I know the remark by the Chair lady was partly directed at me - members who "pi mai, pi mai" (meaning members who come and go). As usual, I listened a lot and then try to give my "two sens" worth. There was a discussion of the python which went into the store of the VC's residence. After various opinions by the experts, the chair (Asma) looked at me and said "how?". I said "leave them alone". And then the subject of the design of the platform of Anjung Budi (the Alumni House) was discussed. Perfect place for rats to build their nest underneath the platform. And then the snakes will come. And then Hifni (the little bird) raised the alarm that the platform which is used to sit diners (and lunchers?) is right underneath a fig tree. So? So come september when the fruits of the fig tree is in abundance, all the birds will come. Thousands, said Hifni. And all the shit will come down. Literally. And then Chow Yang (the insect man) said there's a plant with Semut Selangor, a vicious ant, nesting right near the platform. How vicious? You could end up in hospital if bitten. And the chair looked at me again -"so, leave them alone?". I said "Yah". Of course some people hold the view that "man are more important than insect or nature". If man is threatened, then we must take care of the man first - get rid of the threat. That's what got us in this mess in the first place. We think nature must be tamed for the benefit of man. We have not learned to live with nature.

But I was really happy when the chair recalled that as she was passing the Lake, she saw the students (reading and doing stuff) in perfect harmony with the water monitors (biawak). The students were doing their own thing. The biawaks were doing their own thing. Each don't seemed to be threatened by the other. Hearing that from her, I said "wow, what a change". She now appreciates the biawak. The last time I heard her talk about biawak was at the first Eco USM meeting at the beach and she was going on about her nightmare of getting bitten by the biawaks. Good job you guys at Eco USM.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Are we going to hell?

The "shop with no name" in Nibong Tebal.

Sitting here at the Seminar Hall of the Engineering Campus, 1:07 pm, 19 May, about one and half hours too early for my talk. Second time this month to talk about sustainability here this month to new staff. And the third time this month, including the one on main campus last week. The problem is not the “students”. The problem is me – I hate repeating myself too often.

Bummer, the network is down so am wordprocesing instead of blogging. Why so early? Kiasi or Kiasu? Well, I didn’t know how to time it. I took the Getz for first 1,000 km service and came straight here with the intention of supporting the informal sector. As it turned out, the service was done in less than one hour (I called up and was told maybe it will take 40 minutes but I was a little kiasu so gave myself lots of slag).

Had early lunch at the “No Name Curry Mee-cum-Hokkein Mee-cum-Koay Teow Thng” stall in Nibong Tebal town. I wouldn’t have discovered it if not for Richard taking me there the last time I was here. I was quite impressed the first time I had the curry mee so I asked the hawker in Teow Chew (country man, it seems) what the place was called. He appeared stumped and then pointed to the shop opposite and said “opposite Kim Choo (Pearl or Mutiara) seafood”. This time around I looked out for the name of the road; its Jalan Ooi Kar Seng. Quite easy to find. Coming from north, as you go over the Nibong Tebal town bridge (old steel structure), swing down left and make a U-turn under the bridge to get to the town. Keep going until you see CIMB bank and that junction on the right is Jalan Ooi Kar Seng; very short distance from the bridge (I think 2 traffic lights). So turn right and maybe 300 or 400 metres down the road, is a no sign “shop” right opposite a sign that says “Taman Nibong Tebal”. It’s actually a semi-D single storey house with extended “carporch” which houses the hawker. My wife says probably “no license” lah, that’s why no name. Tried the hokkein mee today. Not bad. But I think I liked the curry mee better. See if you can tell the difference from the picture. We need to support these small businesses. What I like about this stall is it still uses porcelain bowls and metal spoons. Unfortunately, they have to tapau with plastic bags.
Which appeals to you more? Curry mee (above) or Hokkein Mee (below)?

After lunch went to take a spin around Parit Buntar town which is less than 5 minutes from the campus. Wow, that place has grown really big – ehh, but I’m not sure its got much character. Me and buddies in our Master Planning Studio studied the place a looong time ago and it was just so tiny. Not sure, but I think much of the old town has been rebuilt.

Ah, the Getz. I get advice from co-workers who say Korean car not good lah. Kia for instance – one lady in USM have to either change the whole engine (will cost something like RM10,000 or RM15,000) or keep waiting for the spare part to come. How long has she been waiting? 15 months, it seems.

You know the the gadget that tells you how many litres to 100 km is your consumption? My kids say that its probably fake or not really realtime. On the road this morning I was driving at a steady 80 kph and looking at the display and it was showing 7.6 litres/100 km. That’s only 13.2 km/litre. The salesman was quoting something like 16 or 18 km/litre. Don’t have Internet to check but whatever it is our cars are the most outdated dinosaurs of the industrial revolution.

Did you know that the body of the cars (made of steel mainly) is soooo heavy that lots of the energy is used to move the car rather than the passenger? Well, in the first place, the internal combustion engine is quite hopeless. About 80% of the energy from burning the gasoline (petrol) is lost before it reaches the wheel. That’s right, only 20% reaches the wheels. But most of it is used to move the weight of the body and to overcome wind and surface resistance.

Guess how much of the energy consumed is used to move the driver? Only 1%!

Is there any hope? Yes, the idea of hypercar has been around for more than a decade, pioneered by the guys at Rocky Mountain Institute who put the blueprint in the public domain to encourage competition. Huh, you say? Well, putting it in the public domain means nobody can patent the idea. Everyone can use it for free, i.e. don’t have to pay royalty to some genius who just sits around and collect money for his brilliant idea. In the old history of the car, a patent lawyer name George Selden had registered a patent for a “Road Engine” and demanded royalty from all the car-makers. Henry Ford refused to pay and so he got sued. But this guy Selden had never built a working car before and when the Court asked him to prove his invention he failed to built a working version of his patent. And lost the case. So, that’s one of the reasons why Henry Ford was able to built a car for “the great multitude”. Of course he was the genius behind the assembly line which made it possible to built cars cheaply. But look at the problems he created. Urban sprawl, pollution, deaths from collisions, injury, gridlock, global warming, depletion of fossil fuel …

So the hypercar will save the World? Probably not; we need more than that. When it comes true (not if), the internal combustion engine will be dead and your hybrid-electric hypercar would even become the power generation plant of the future. Yes, when you park your car and spend the whole day at your office desk, the fuel cell in your car will be generating electricity and pumping it into the grid. You will be selling electricity! And demand for petrol will be so low it will just stay in the ground, good only for supporting the earth below us. And the body? It will be a carbon composite polymer which will be as strong as steel but weigh two-thirds less. Exciting isn’t it? The Toyota Prius implements some of the ideas of the hypercar. It’s still too expensive for me but I can wait. By the way, fuel cells was invented some 150 years ago but its only now that the components to make the cells have come together. What does that tell you? Don’t worry if your professor says your idea is stupid or far-fetched. Tell him to wait 150 years, and then get back to you.
The new staff at Engineering 19th May (above) and 6th May (below).

[postscript- now at my office next morning: went to and discovered that the Gertz emits 159g/km of CO2. So let’s say 100 km a day times 250 working days a year, that’s 25,000 km times 159 = 3,975 kg or about 4 metric tons of CO2 a year. The Myvi 1.3 coughs out 151g/km; Proton Gen-2 1.6 litre is worst at 176g/km.

And the Toyota Prius Hybrid 1.5 litre? 104g/km – not very impressive isn’t it? Oh, you Porshe guys and gals – you are all going to hell for your carbon emissions 242g/km for the Boxster (whatever that is). And those filthy rich driving around in Rolls Royce won’t even make it to hell – 377g/km! with a 6.7 litre engine] Sorry for being overly dramatic - comes with the job. BTW, the average Malaysian spews out about 7.5 metric tons of carbon per year (2004) and is 37th highest in the World.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

The White Coffin 2.0 - Zero Waste

Am numb from working the Consultation Paper for People-Centred Sustainable Development - also watching the endless marathon of American Idol. Everything I think should be in it is there. Just need to read it one last time tomorrow morning and then it will be emailed to a small select group of students and staff who have agreed to read it and give some feedback. Then we'll see whether it bombs.

Ah, but I am not the only one who did the writing. I have a trust-worthy co-writer.

This is the cover of the paper. Why so red? 'Cos we're still in the red ocean.

Then the paper will go through the motions until it either gets accepted as something that makes sense or gets thrown out the window. And mine you, up there is a tough bunch. I have seen months of work go back to the drawing board within the space of one or two hours of heated and sustained attack.

So, what's next? First, I got to look for a successor. Seriously. This is one of the experiments for the people-centred taskforce. To be truly people-centred, the people must come forward voluntarily and the people will find their synergies and from there the leader will emerge. I had a conversation with a few student volunteers and one of them suggested maybe even a student could lead Kampus Sejahtera. Why not?

Second, The White Coffin 2.0 is about to take off. Again this is part of the people-centred agenda. Yes, The White Coffin was a resounding success but there's lots of loose ends. The White Coffin 2.0 will not just be about getting rid of polystyrene foam containers. Version 2.0 will be themed "Zero Waste". It must permeate the entire University operations - not just canteens. So get ready. But the ultimate goal as far as canteens are concerned is zero disposable packaging including polystyrene, plastic sheets, brown paper, plastic boxes (polypropylene), paper boxes and even biodegradable containers (i.e. EcoPak and the like). YES, you read it right. Zero packaginng. Not doable? If we cannot achieve that, we don't deserve to call ourselves the APEX U Sustainable Campus.

I was really proud of my wife when I heard that she gave the checkout counter girl a hard time. They always insist that everything must be in a plastic bag so that they can stick the price sticker on it. My wife refused to let the girl put the fruit in a plastic bag and insisted on the simple solution above. Zero waste is not difficult - don't generate the waste.

Second, close the loop. Make sure the fruit skins and seeds don't go into the thrash. Collect them and put them in your compost bin. What comes from nature must go back to nature.

Another simple way to return nutrients back to Earth. The heap is about a metre high (just the right height for compost heaps). Actually I have dugged about one feet down so the height is higher. All that from about 2 hours of trimming weeds and replanting my ladies finger plot. As you can see it is a huge open space which me and my neighbours have taken over portions for flowers and fruits. My neightbour has got a neem tree and I am learning to use it for cooking. Sort of like urban guerillas. But some people still don't quite get it or are impatient so they burn the heap. I have one heap outside and one inside my compound.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

So you think you can play music?

When I was a small kid, I said that I wanted to learn the guitar. So my sister Gek Yong bought me a guitar. And I prepared to rock the world. But look what happened to me - I ended up in academia. The only musical talent I have is as the uninvited judge for American Idol. I didn't take any lessons (I think we were too poor) and the schools don't give a hoot about music. Maybe about 10 years ago, I bought one of those electric organ-piano thing and tried to learn how to play the thing by following the lighted keyboard. Nah, didn't work. I'm too dumb for musical instruments. Just like I'm too dumb for Chinese. Eh, make that the Chinese language.

So, the keyboard sat there and none of my three kids seemed interested. It was actually a test to tease them into showing some interest in music. Back up a couple of years to when we first came back from U.S. after my studies (taxpayers money involved) and we sent our son (then 3 years +) to a kiddy garten in Taman Pekaka on the Island. One day he came back with a note from the teachers. It said that he was given a music test. And the result? The test said he has not musical talent or ability. Our reaction was "so what" - I can't play any instruments; neither does my wife. And then "what the heck do they know anyway?".

And so the keyboard sat there. And then my eldest, Vivian, went to middle school (they call secondary school, "middle school" in Chinese). She joined the Rangers and hated it - didn't like the authoritarian regime - always scolding members, if I recall. She quit and joined the School Marching Band/Wind Orchestra. She started from scratch. No music training, didn't know how to read the score. I think she scrapped through the drumming test. And then eventually became the Chairperson of the Band. Two years later, my son, Brian, followed and joined the Band. And know what? He too eventually became the Chairman and also student conductor. He bugged us to get him a drum set but we thought it would drive us crazy. But we are indulgent parents so bought him a digital drumset thinking that he could just plug in the headphone and just drown himself in his cacophony and leave everyone else in peace. Oh, boy were we wrong. Even with the headphone on, the digital drums make one helluva a racket. And at midnight too! We used to yell at him to remind him the the neighbours have to sleep. He was oblivious to the noise with his headphone on.

In the meantime, Jillian, started taking piano lessons. And she too followed her siblings and joined the Band. And yesterday was their second last big performance after 5 years before they pack up to prepare for the big one - the year-end form five exams. So we all (whole family) went to watch and had a great time.

This clip was shot with a tiny compact digital camera and stitched together with Apple's iMovie.

Oh, on a pink sheet of paper was listed various donors and contributors. I received a special mention (in Chinese) at the bottom of the list thanking me for contributing "empty rice packages". Huh? Well, these kids know about polystyrene and didn't want to use it. They usually get packaged food for lunch and dinner on the day of the concert as they spend the whole day rehearsing. So, I was asked to help get the supply of Ecopak (because it is much more expensive for them to buy) and I decided to sponsor them.

Ah, about the kids. More than a month ago, the youngest said she had to go to School on a saturday morning to pick up something from a friend. So, yah, ok, one of us will have to fetch her. Come that day, she's waiting upstairs and my wife is waiting downstairs. And my wife and I were grumbling about why she's dilly dallying. One hour later, she said she was ready to go. I gave her a ear-full about making her mother wait. She just smiled. I was cooking porridge for lunch and then I went to take a quick shower (I think did some gardening too). They came back while I was still in the shower. As I came out, I asked my wife whether they wanted lunch yet. "Yah, I think they are hungry", my wife said. I said "who's they?". She just grinned. As I walked out, I got a little confused because I saw Vivian sitting on her bed, grinning away. "Eh, how did you get here?". It seems my wife's reaction at the School was even better. As their car was approaching the place where the school kids usually wait for their parents, my wife saw Vivian sitting there and asked "What's Vivian doing there?", looking very puzzled. Apparently the two sisters had conspired to surprise us - the ETA was delayed because of someone being late or something.

And then two nights ago, I was supposed to pick up Vivian from the bus stop. We were watching a clip from Brian's Facebook and then Jillian innocently said, "boy, his friends will be surprised to see him at the concert tomorrow". I looked at her and said, "but he's not coming back." And she said "Oh, yah, hor". And that's that. So, that night I went out to fetch Vivian from the bus terminal and Jillian came along. As we approached the terminal, Jillian said "there over there". I looked and said "ehh, doesn't that look like Brian". So, they did it again. My wife had even called Brian early in the evening and asked him where he was. He said "outside". And he was actually there next to his sister on the bus watching aneme.
The Three Conspirators - after the successful concert

So, what's the moral of the two stories? You tell me.

Oh, tomorrow is Mother's Day! And we are going for Japanese.

P.S. I got some funny reaction to my "Do Not Disturb" sign on my door. Someone even asked whether I am sick. Well, not physically. And how's my progress. Coming along, coming along.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Do Not Disturb - Unless your life depends on it

I put up that "do not disturb" sign on my office door this morning. I need to focus on writing up the Roadmap for the people-centred sustainable development agenda. Notice is valid until 31st May. That should buy me some peace and quiet. So far, I am quite happy. Managed to write a couple of pages which seems to make sense. Initial target is 20 or so pages. Just to trigger some thoughts and reactions, especially from the movers and shakers, the people who will make the decisions whether to accept the Roadmap.

So, I packed my stuff and wanted to leave my office. Got into my car and what to you know? It won't start.

Oh, wait, you didn't know I got my Hyundai/Innokom Getz 1.4 last week, did you? Yes, one week old and the baby won't start. Tried the power window. Works perfectly. Open up the front. Pretended to look for something or other. Haven't got the slightest clue what to do.

So, what to do? Call my wife lah. She called the salesman, who is on leave and had sent his car for respray. The technical advicer called me and said it could be the battery. But it's one week old and the windows work fine. The windows take only very little power. To start the car, it needs more power. Oh, I see.

So, how I asked? Can you come to the campus (their shop is on the Mainland)? The problem is they have no transport. The breakdown vehicle was sent to KL for maintenance (strange). Ask the salesman to drive you over. That's when I found out the guy sent his car for respray. "Give me 10 minutes. I will sort things out for you", said the technical guy (nice pleasant guy I met when I got the car exactly one week ago). About a minute later my mobile vibrated again. Wah so fast? It was the Manager, apologetic and asking me to hang on, he will send his people over (my wife called him because she couldn't trust the salesman who is barely out of his teens but managed to sell 7 cars the previous month). I told the Manager I was about to lambast his company. He explained that sometimes the car has been sitting in the factory or shop for too long and the battery wears down because of not being used. I said the car should come out of his shop 100% checked and perfect. Apparently, you can't check the batteries. Yah, I sort of believe that. They just go kaput overnight. In this case, over lunch.

So, I am waiting in the office wondering whether I should continue writing up the people-centred thing but I thought this is just as important.

So, what made us decide on the Getz? Strange as it seems we "fell in love" with the Getz while on holiday at the Gold Coast last Christmas. Rented two to drive around ('cos they were all out of people-movers). That and of course the RM7,000 discount offered on the Getz. It's very compact and has some nice little aids on the speedometer. They got rid of the temperature indicator so if it gets too hot the thermoter sign shows up in red. It's got a digital display for kilometres travelled but what I find interesting is you can display how many more kilometres you can travel with the amount of petrol left in the tank. Or you can choose to show consumption - it moves from 8.4 litres/100 km to 8.0 litres/100 km. That's kinda cool 'cos it shows how efficient your driving is. And if you display the number of kilometres before your tank becomes empty and you are idylling or waiting in a jam, you can see the countdown - quite scary. Made me switch off the engine while waiting for the ferry yesterday.

Will take it on a long distance drive to the Engineering campus tomorrow - assuming they fix the problem this evening. Generally a nifty car. Pickup a little on the slow side but overtaking is comfortatble. Gear change is smooth without feeling any jerks. Interior very spacious - I think the trick is in raise the roof of the car and giving deep slant to the windscreen. A four-star rating on the crash test.

I guess I should work more on my Roadmap. It's been more than 10 minutes for sure. Just got a call, the technical adviser is coming. So far so good.

I think I should tell you about the salesman. As I said he is barely out of his teens. My wife saw the adverts about the special offer. Called up one Hyundai shop after another but they don't sell Getz. Eventually, a girl in AutoCity gave my wife this fella Kim's number. But I said to my wife, wait, no need to hurry. And then my old faithful refused to start again. For the record, I was married to that car for 14 years (and we are still married if you must know). So OK, we went for test drive, paid the deposit and waited for the car. Then this guy Kim called my wife a few days later and said "your car is here, come make the payments". I told me wife, you go lah, not need two persons. My wife went and called me later. Guess what? No car. And this guy Kim said to my wife "I call you meh? Sorry, sorry, sorry". Of course my wife complained to the Manager. What the manager said was quite amazing. It seems this "kid" inherited a "disease" - the disease of "forgetfulness". The manager apologised and said this guy managed to sell 7 cars in his first month and got all confused. I think the manager was doing a friend a favour by taking this young kid under his wing. And I have to take my hat off to this manager - he was patient and understanding even when this guy made mistakes and was slow. I talked to the young chap. He said he can't study. So, what do you like to do? Eat lot, talk alot (actually, he said "Like to eat, Like to talk"). He's going to go far in sales.

Car is fixed. The technical adviser drove all the way from Butterworth. Checked the battery with a gadget. Took out a remote portable tiny little printer to print from the battery checker - I guess as evidence for replacement of parts. Got bitten by some huge red ants in the process. And now all done. I can go home. More than one hour (actually 2 hours) later than planned.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Go Straight to Jail

Spent the weekend on a (former) Penal Island, the Alcatraz of Malaysia. Locals (those of my generation and older) will be familiar with the threat - "Send you to Pulau Jerejak". Jerejak Island was until the late 1990s a detention camp where they keep criminals or suspected criminals. I am not sure, but I think this is also where they send the gangsters and secret society types under restricted orders - the police don't have enough evidence to convict them but "know" they are bad influence on society so have to quickly lock them up without due process. The detention camp has since closed and there has been talk to turn it into a tourists paradise. Or a tourist trap.

Well, to be fair, the students loved the place. They shared three to a room and these rooms are spacious. Actually, they were supposed to share 4 to a room but 11 students didn't show up despite confirming by phone. Hhhm, I think they should miss a turn and "go straight to jail". The students also enjoyed the food and the line dancing and the environment around the Resort. Lots of big trees have been retained. But construction is as usual shoddy. So when it rained, you have walk through puddles of water. And with the continuous stream of rain channelled down on to the rocks just outside my room window, I thought the sky had fallen down. And the rain washed out our outdoor programme on sunday afternoon. I think the students were very disappointed.

Ah, not only the no-shows who should go to jail. The Resort guys should also go to jail. When we were negotiating, they promised that transport would not be a problem. 60 people one shot, can handle ah? No problem, we have this and that; priority given to guest. So 8.30 am came and there was still no boat. Ah, ferry out of service, have to use smaller boats. By the time the "captain" left the Penang Island Jetty, it was already 9.30 am. I gave the guy a loooong piece of my mind. I said I am not recommending their resort in future.
Janet didn't waste time getting the students to get to know each other as we waited for the boat. This is called ice-breaking

Only because of the boat? Oh, my beef is more than that. Already my staff had visited earlier and found out that the promised WIFI only covers the ballroom area. We were promised WIFI is everywhere. "I want it in writing", I said. "No need, it's everywhere" - the Resort's sales rep responded. How about discount for the SPA? I give you 30%, to all USM participants. And then I discover from the web that EVERYONE gets 30%. So, not very honest about it. Hhm, we want smaller breakout rooms. Hhhm, Hah, emm - long story short, we can use the ballroom only, partitioned into two, that means two groups to one partition. After the first session, the manager was called. Can you do something about it? It's too noisy. He thought for awhile. Sorry, I can't do anything. There are actually two more smaller rooms. Sorry, cannot help. I went to take a look at the rooms. Nicely arranged with mineral water bottles (definitely not in my seminar room) on the tables. But nobody around. Maybe already reserved. BUT nobody is using it when we wanted it.

Talking about water. There was a huge plastic container (which was cover with a red cloth because the outside itself looked shabby) filled with water in the ballroom. I had given instructions - "I don't want to see any water in plastic bottles". And no plastic wraps on the food. Well, I was the first to drink. I didn't suspect anything. And then Abe filled up his tumber and saw particles. So we called management. OK, they took the who container away. Brought in one with a clear glass usually used for juice. Guess what. The first glass full by Lean Heng was cloudy (and stayed cloudy). The next glass showed brown particles in it. And we were told that the water was actually from mineral bottles! (not good huh? they don't understand why we don't want to use water from plastic bottles). So, back it goes. And out came several metal jugs with water in it.

One of my colleagues had a horrific experience (and she told the manager over breakfast - "I am so sorry about this", was what the manager could offer; and a huge freshly cut papaya). She had a sore throat. Called up reception, 4 or 5 times over a period of one hour, just to get some salt to gurgle. She got some "salt" from one of the staff. When she gurgled, it tasted funny. She's very sensitive and upon examining the crystal discovered it was MSG! Eventually, a technician who came to fix the air-con went to the kitchen and brought a salt shaker. Guess what? It was empty. Poor thing, she had to open up the bottle and tried to scrimp for the few grains of salt. Horror story huh?

Well, the bottomline is, it is not designed for seminars and workshops. So, please lah, don't sell seminar and workshop packages! Team-building, maybe - if you don't washed out by heavy rain.

Janet asked me in Langkawi - "why do you blog". "It's my release", I said. I guess also some people seems to like reading my blog. One of them in the picture is a fan of my blog.

Oh, what about the workshop itself? How did it go? Over lunch, I called a couple of students over and asked "So, how do you feel after listening to VC?". She said, "I feel like what we have done in the workshop is useless". My next post will address this.