Saturday, 15 October 2011

Goodbye ...

3 November 2011 at the foyer of Canselori.

On the day when Dzulkifli Abdul Razak said goodbye as Vice-Chancellor of USM after eleven years at the helm.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Wheel Clamp Zone extended

Be warned, whether you are staff, student or visitor, if you park outside the designated parking bays, you are liable to be clamped. I wish I could tell you the "exceptions", but they probably don't apply to you.
The penalty is RM20 to get the clamps off.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Devine Intervention

7:38 pm, just after light dinner of duck rice at SuperTanker food court at Lip Sin Garden.
Waiting for my 8:30 meeting. It's too long a ride to go home and come again.
Earlier in the afternoon, a colleague phoned me  : "Are you going? I thought our work already done, taken care of by the various DVCs? If you're not going, I'm also not going". I said my intention is to go ... for reasons best not revealed here.

But after dinner I took a walk around the two lakes on campus. Over the weekend, it gain notoriety in the local press. Everyone pointed their fingers at the USM retention pond for causing the floods along Sg. Dua. There was a huge downpour and the ponds overflowed.

A few chaps were quite happy because along with the flood water came the tilapia and jelawat fishes struggling in the shallow water along the road outside USM. They got their nets and got free fish for dinner. Ah, but some biologist told me once the fish in the lake is really not fit for consumption.

One apartment just outside of the campus also got flooded. Pictures in the press showed a car submerged up to its roof. Poor guy. Usually, the guards at the condo would alert the residents to remove their cars to higher ground after one hour of rain.

Residents there too blamed USM for not taking care of the problem. They said they complained before.

Some elected member of parliament or state assemblyman immediately jumped in and said USM should dig another hole. And the DID chief seemed to think its USM's problem too, saying that the university should deepen the ponds.

And what did USM say? The public relations guy said the only thing that would not get a good public lashing. "We will work with the relevant departments to solve the problem".

Looks like another bigger headache on top of the alga bloom.

Speaking of which, the green alga is all gone! The water in the two lakes are now earthen brown.

Wow, all it took was a few hours of heavy rain to get rid of the problem.

But don't be too happy. Just wait awhile. The alga bloom will come back. We still have not resolved the problem. Low water flow on most days. Rubbish and pollutants flowing in from outside. And wrong design - one pond has inlet but no outlet. And of course, one problem is that it is shallow and silting up.

But I think the biggest loser are the people who pumped in more than a hundred thousand to experiment with use of bio-enzymes to solve the problem. The experiment is all screwed up now. They will have to wait for the next alga bloom to come back and start the experiment all over again.

Or will they just claim victory.

Now I know one reason why the mouth of the river at Tanjung Bungah could miraculously become spotlessly clean.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Who are we?

 I was at the Red House having my usual vegetarian lunch. But now I have increased from 3 to 4 vegetables. So instead of the usual RM2 it's now about RM2.60 or so. Still damn cheap. with barley at 70 sens, it's still less than RM3.50 for lunch. That's a little over one US dollar. But there's a billion people who don't even have a dollar a day.

While I was in the room eating, a man in USM uniform and a lady came in to inspect the rattan table and chairs. The man was giving instructions to the lady (probably a contractor or sorts) to repair the chairs and tables. 20 chairs and 3 tables to be sent for repair. I said to myself, "well done, the message is getting through". Reuse, reduce, repair, refuse ... in whatever order you like.

Oh my the way, or BTW, if you like, the lady selling chap fun (economy rice) warned me not to go and eat there on Monday. I said, "monday is a holiday". Well, not just monday. "Don't come for the next three months". Huh, why? "They are renovating Red House, don't you know?". Oh. So, that repair of the tables and chairs must be related to the renovation.

After the quick lunch (I eat toooo fast), I came out and saw the above scene. My car is the tiny one on the right behind the big red car. B**$$????? It's an official USM car. So, I hung around, waiting. And a group of students also came to the other car. And we looked around. 

And then the earlier guy in uniform and the lady came around. The man said "sorry ah". I didn't smile. I just looked at him. If you can't read the words on the door of the car, it says that it belongs to the safety unit.

Now, if people in authority don't obey the rules, who should?

 Also today on campus. I had actually noticed this mouse trap in HBP yesterday and also saw the pestcontrol contractor's staff with a bunch of traps at the car park. So, they trap the rats (can you see them) and then exterminate them in the hot sun. I am not making judgment. In my old house, I used to trap the rats too. They have nest in the roof. And the crawl out at night to make a mess. Yes, I also put them in the sun to kill them. But then I felt it was really inhumane. Long slow death by baking in the sun. I did let some of them escape in the big drain but they will come back. So, I tried hot water but it just don't feel right.

So, who are we? We make a distinction between pests and other animals we don't harm.

I think the solution is to make sure that your environment is clean. Don't create opportunities for the rats to fester. Can we do that on campus?

Friday, 8 April 2011


This was captured yesterday afternoon at Pusat Sejahtera, our Wellness Centre. One hour of very intensive exercise including some serious pilates stretching. The guru, Dr George Teoh, an academic, yes, lecturer, said that session burnt 200 calories. I think burning calories is over-rated. Haha, sorry, just being funny. But I think for me it was the stretching which old people like me have to take care of. Yesterday on my walk near the beach, I saw a lady do an incredible stunt. She was walking and imagine this. Now if you put your palms together and put it where your heart is, like you are praying. Got it? Now, imagine walking behind this lady. And you see the palms in prayer - behind her back. In the middle on the back! I was absolutely impressed.

George says a 30-minute brisk walk will take off 150 calories or so.

So, "burning" is not my problem these days. Over the last weeks, I have been doing walks in the mornings before going to campus, almost every day. Sometimes I do a slow soft jog for 30 or 40 minutes. Yesterday I stood on the scale next to my bed. Guess what? I lost about 2 kilos in the last weeks.

Hhhm, I am thinking tonight would be fried fish, fried belacan chicken, vegetables of course, and soup! And brown rice. I know, I know, fried food is not very healthy but I deserve a little treat for all the hard work, right?

Stay active guys. Stay healthy.

Friday, 25 March 2011

"Good Health" is not "Wellness"

In January, more than 2 months ago, I wrote "Are U Well?". At that time, I had no idea what "wellness" really meant. Yah, we all know that the USM Clinic used to be called Pusat Kesihatan (or literally, the Health Centre, or just Clinic). Now it has been renamed the Pusat Sejahtera (in English, it's supposed to be Wellness Centre), which got some people confused with Kampus Sejahtera. So they bracketed it with "(Pusat Kesihatan dan Pergigian)" - which kinda defeats the point of the name change because you now sort of tell people that it's still the same thing.

What would you expect when you walk into a Wellness Centre? Gym? Spa? Reflexologists and masseuse lined to crack your bones and relax your muscles? Doctors and nurses? emmmhh ....

I remember the first time I heard about the proposed name change was when VC mentioned it in passing (quite long ago), saying that "apparently there's a difference between health and wellness" (or something like that) ... but he didn't elaborate.

I did some googling recently and started reading. And I am still trying to get it into my bloodstream, so this is really tentative but hopefully instructive.

Firstly, even if you have a debilitating disease, it does not mean you cannot attain a certain state of wellness.

And I hear you go "huh, sick but still well? what kind of concept is this?".

So, imagine a patient who has to go for dialysis a few times a week. It's probably painful (I don't know, really, I'm assuming). It takes hours off your day. And of course, it probably also means you can't be very active the rest of the week. Within these limitations, wellness can still be achieved. Yes, it means that you accept the limitations imposed by your illness but you choose to live you life to the fullest possible.

So, the first idea or concept or principle, is that there are various levels or thresholds to wellness. It varies with your state of health. It varies with age, from childhood to old age. Various developmental stages are identified throughout your life. Within each stage, you should develop certain wellness tasks. For example, during infancy, one minimal wellness task relates to psychomotor skills. As you become aged (like me?) you need to learn to how to deal with your mortality (death), loss of income upon retirement and of course your physical abilities and strengths.

Some people are just lucky. They don't have to do anything and still don't get sick. That essentially means he/she is healthy. That's how we see "health" - the absence of illness. To understand wellness, imagine a sliding horizontal bar. On the left end is "illness" and on the right end is "wellness". Now, if you are ill, you get medical treatment, you work towards recovery and maybe rehabilitation and you will then arrive at somewhere in the middle where you will be considered "healthy", again.

Wellness requires that you continue moving to the right, learning about what it takes to stay healthy (education), then making lifestyle changes with the intention to maximise life satisfaction. Then, you will attain "wellness".

Wellness is a very personal and individual effort (with community and professional support, if necessary). You cannot have a KPI or standard measurement of wellness which applies to everyone. Wellness is not a static point or position. Wellness is a process. You have to keep working on it, to achieve personal growth. And that does not mean just getting rich. Wellness requires effort. You need to work at it.

Obviously, personal ambitions and goals plays a dominant role in determining your wellness. If you are constantly stressed and aggressively pursuing your first million or next big promotion you will neglect your family and friends, make enemies along the way and generally forget to take care of your health. All will not end well.

If you have access, try this article "The Wellness Process" (1977) ... yes, they have been talking about it for more than 30 years! I wonder if the ideas have evolved or change much since.

Quote of the week by Muhammad Salleh, Poet Laurete at the CGSS Dailogue at DPU, USM yesterday : "When I am not having nightmares about KPIs, I am a poet". See a connection to wellness?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Stay Healthy - and yee will be wealthy and wise

See something you like? Mark your calendar.

I think I will go for "Exercise for a glamourous you". I wonder if "glamourous" is only for ladies? Does "glamour" equate with "expensive" and "extravagant" lifestyle? Or is it just the looks? Perhaps its the "inside" which is important?

Saturday, 19 March 2011

persuasive posters

I just happened to have my compact digital camera in hand. I was early for my lecture. So I walked around the Lecture Halls corridor (I think they call it the DK foyer, I call it Upper Penang Road, USM).

There are softboards along both sides of the wall. I was just wasting time, and started clicking on the flyers and posters.

The one on the left says its looking for "potential girls who is proud of their origins and is able to parade Malaysia's culture and tradition in style". Want to participate? Send in 2 photos, one a head shot and the other full body shot. Wait. You must be in a white T-shirt and jeans.

Hmmm, since when has white T-shirt and jeans been part of Malaysian culture and tradition? Ooops, sorry, am I living in the Dark Ages? I guess the organisers just want to "size up" the candidates.

The poster on the right? Something about a competition to promote domestic tourism using mobile technology. As graphic design goes, I would say the one on the left wins hands down.

 This one is obviously done by professionals. What jumps at you? The brand of course. And then? The ladies in silhouette as the four fingers. But I done get it - what does the hand say? Now, it stops you, make you read and you find out its a campaign to get students to recycle their deodorant plastic bottles.

Now pause a second. I get this idea that it's targetted at ladies. And suddenly, I a sense that female students in our local universities must be using lots and lots and lots of deodorant. Correct?

Well, at least they have the decency (or magnimity) to say any brand of deodorant is accepted. You stick a label with your name and stand to win a prize. I'm suspicious. I think it's a "scam" to collect data about brand preferences amongst students in the universities. Sorry, I seem to be in  sceptic-mode. I guess it's my bipolar character.

This one is a photo competition. Now if you look at it from far, what would be your first reaction about the theme? One of those catwalk or models show on reality TV, right? No, no, no. The theme is "Life in Penang". One thing I can say, good photographers do not a good graphic artist make.

Like this? A far as posters goes, right on the dot. Good use of white space. Unclattered. And the most important message jumps at you. "EXHIBITION". and then "Final Year Project". You can even continue walking without having to stop and still get the message. In terms of artistic design though - so so.

I would say this a reasonably good effort. You read the big letters and if you are interested, walk nearer to read the fine print. Doesn't cost a bomb to do or reproduce.

Put two posters next to each other and you double the attention-grabbing ability. One look and you can guess its related to something Chinese. Of course! But wait, I can't read Mandarin.

 The poster above and the one below are from the same campaign but obviously done by two very different designer. There isn't a "united front" here. I chatted with two of the organisers and essentially gave them a hard time but wanted to support their Charity Walk, if they could change some of the way they were going about it. Like giving a free t-shirt to every participant and I think water in plastic bottles, and so on. They promised to come back to talk to me. They didn't. I am guessing their advisor said "tell him to mind his own business".  Na, I think it was too late for them to make changes. So, anyway, good luck.

 This one is done by a designer who doesn't understand the concept of poster and graphic design. OK, ok, maybe it's just old school.

People who don't care where they put their banners or posters or flyers. Preferably "in your face". Irritates you like hell, don't they?

But there is hope ...

Sunday, 13 March 2011

"Am I being cold storaged?"

Firstly, don't worry about ME. I know I have been cold storaged.  That's old news. This is not about me.

I debated whether this post should be on my personal blog or on this semi-official blog. I decided that whoever reads it may learn a thing or two. BTW, in case you haven't noticed, the counter is approaching 100,000 page views - after almost fours years of sweat. Bring out the champagne! I wonder how I can convert page views into impact factor?

Let me first point you to my post on March 4 - yes, it's related.

It started with an email, time stamped at 20:08 on friday last (11th March). It said RSVP. I ignored it.

And then the SMSs started coming about 9 pm until passed 10 pm. One. Two. Three. Four. I "ignored" them - meaning I didn't press "reply" but I said to me wife, "OK, I will tell them yes, I will come with my girl friend". And we went to sleep.

Next morning (yesterday), Saturday, we went to the market. About 9 something, my phone buzzed, my wife happened to be near the phone, picked it up and gave it to me. The conversation was something like this "hey, you didn't reply to the invitation .... blah, blah, blah". I said, "ok, ok, I will respond now" and shot off an SMS.

As usual, I leave my phone in the room and let it be. Later yesterday evening, I checked and ooops, 3 or 4 missed calls. I guessed where it was coming from (phone no. not on my list) but ignored them - didn't call back lah, already at night. Then this morning, I saw another SMS, saying, amongst others,  "... awaiting yr presence 2mrw ..." - timestamped 11:15 pm, last nite.

So, what's all the excitement (some may call it "fuss") all about? Am I really that important? Nahhh, I'm just a minor player in all this. They are all just good friends and comrades in urban conservation.

Maimunah on the left is an old friend, with my girlfriend next to her. Alex Koenig on the right - he attended our wedding dinner ages ago (oops did I say wedding?). He was one of the key players who had a frustrating time in the 1980s trying to get the conservation agenda on the policy-makers' plate.

Ah, here are the important people. Right in front of the picture is the Press Table. The VVIPs are at the other end of the room. This is the ground floor of the George Town World Heritage Inc. (GTWHI) office at Acheh Street.

Now here's the VVIP, the Honorable Chief Minister of Penang with Maimunah, the outgoing General Manager of GTWHI and soon-to-be President of the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai. All those crushing forward are members of the Press - they seems very interested in this news, for obvious reasons (?)

Don't worry, what I'm telling you is not official secret because the Chief Minister himself talked about it in front of the Press and the guests. Yes, the CM was full of praise for Maimunah. He identified three qualities in Maimunah. She has the knowledge and skills in her area of expertise. She is able to communicate (hey, students, are you getting this?). And most important, she has the passion for what she does.

Ah, but then the CM told a little secret. He said that when he picked Maimunah for the job of GM at GTWHI, she asked him "am I being cold storaged?". (You gotta give Maimunah due credit for asking the boss that. Spunky lady, don't you think?)

What? Really? Yes, Maimunah confirmed the story. Remember this was the year 2009. At that time Maimunah was the Director of Town Planning at the Municipal Council of Penang Island. From managing 300 staff, she started out with 3 staff to create a brand new company called GTWHI.

But why did she ask that of the Chief Minister? Those of you familiar with the infant years of George Town World Heritage Listing would know that we almost had the carpet pulled from under our feet. The four controversial hotels in the heritage area was approved with heights exceeding the 18 metres stated in the dossier submitted to UNESCO. And guess who was the director of planning then?

And those of you who followed the blogosphere may remember a guy named Jeff Ooi, who was then the Chief of Staff of the CM writing in his blog, blaming and naming the two ladies (Maimunah and Patahiyah) for the debacle.  (I tried to google the article but have not been successful yet. As a personal note, I am not suggesting either ladies were responsible. Knowing how the politics worked back then, I am sure there is more than meets the eye.)

Guess what, both ladies are now heading the two local councils in Penang. What did they say about politics? "The art of the impossible." "There are no permanent enemies"

Well, for the record, CM denied he was cold storing Maimunah. In fact, CM told her that he could see her potential and capability (he said that this morning). Of course, which idiot would appoint a person to an important job and hopes that he or she fails? Hey, we are talking World Heritage here.

I will full-stop this post here ... and leave you to ponder your own paths in life.

In the meantime, here are more pictures.

Some of the guests. On the left is the current Chairman of MIP Northern Branch and the first lady, who is also the Branch Secretary (Michael Ong and Hui Lin)

Tourists all like to take this shot.
The lady in cheongsam is Lim Chooi Ping who takes over from Maimunah. There's also Amelia Neoh on the left, a town planner with the State. And lady who introduced herself as Teh, an engineer, who likes sweet things.

 This was after the GTWHI Committee meeting last thursday, 10 March 2011. The reason we are all holding the pieces of paper is because we were all "excited" about getting our letters of appointment to the Committee - one year and three months after we started serving! Talk about volunteerism and perserverance. Yes, none of us get paid for being on the Committee. Well, some do get projects related to GTWHI. Oooo, my pro-bono work on the Integrated Heritage Database merited a mention by the outgoing GM in her appreciation speech this morning.

 All passionate about protecting George Town.
From the left (each head in sequenc): myself, Hijas, Gaik Siang, Yoke Mui, Tengku Idaura, Gywnn, Maimunah, Koay (web developer), Neil (Thinkcity), Bok Kim, Khoo Salma, Yeow Wai

(A few of the photos in this post are courtesy of Hijas)

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Walk with me

Yesterday, Friday 11 March 2011 was a momentous day for the people of Japan as they  reeled from a 8.9 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sendai, generating 10-metre (or was it 20?)  tsunami with ripple effect all the way to the California coast.

Yesterday morning, I had a meeting at the Wellness Centre (Pusat Sejahtera) to pursue a "State of Health" project. The meeting was at 11 am, but I left my office about 15 minutes earlier, taking a slow walk, digital Nikon in hand. Do you ever observe what goes on around you? This is what I saw. Some I like. Some I don't.

The Lecture Halls ABC, just right in front of my window. Freshly painted, again. I recall it painted maybe a year ago. It just got painted again a few weeks ago. This was the first lecture hall built in the 1970s. I hope someone understands and appreciates its significance.

I took a left turn and saw this banner proclaiming the MyBrian15 project. It's one of the critical projects by the Ministry of Higher Education to produce more brians, of course. I think this was a workshop to teach the students how not to screw up their applications to the Ministry (I believe its for scholarhip to pursue masters and PhD).
This corridor is iconic and distinctive because of its slanting roof.

See? No polystyrene!

The future of the country rest with these young prospects.

I went down the stairs from the lecture hall and was greeted by this scene. These are old barracks from the British Military days, also freshly painted. It's a pity they threw away all the clay tiles and replaced it with metal roofing. See the beautiful red?

And then I bummed into this .... and I turned around ....
And saw four cars all with wheels "clamped". All without stickers. Presumably all students. What happens if it is a visitor?

As I walked, I turned again to look at the Flame of Forest. Even the ugly building behind it is softened by the beauty of nature.

This is intended to slow down the traffic but doubles as a pedestrian crossing. Most motorists don't give way to walkers. Do you?

To tackle the proliferation of banners everywhere, we have banner farms at strategic corners.
People who insist on banners swear that it's effective.

The new extension to the Hamzah Sendut Library. CGSS is on the roof - that's supposed to be my new office. Architecturally quite up-to-date. But really out-of-place in the area. No sympathy with the current library to which it is attached.

"I need to breathe, please", say the roots.

Who cares about banner farms. This is right in your face as you walk.

Sigh ....

The first cut is the deepest. Yes, there is a proper way to trim branches. In this case it's neatly done. Except the tree is now unbalanced.

See the heap of brown leaves on the right? Where do you think it goes? The landfill. Where do you think it should go? Compost heap. Or mulch.

See those plants in the foreground? Parasites (epiphytes) which grows on the rain tree in the background. They look lovely in the tree but will eventually choke the host. So, they have to be removed periodically. Lot's of hard work, taking care of trees.

Cahaya no more. They have added railings to this heritage building. I am guessing they want to screen off the air-con blowers. What is the right way to protect and conserve heritage buildings?

The new student centre in the background. I just don't like the design.

This is Pusat Sejahtera. Many years ago, I was invited to the site with a bunch of people from the Development Office and the architect. One of the things we talked about was how to avoid building too near the majestic rain trees. And yes, they complied.

We are not all law-breakers, afterall. Even though parking is limited, and even though the cars you see on the left are "illegally parked", no one "dared" to use the handicap parking space, on the front right.

Inside the Wellness Centre ... indoor plants can't survive the air-conditioned environment. See the stumb? That's not art.

About one and half hours later, I walked by the Lecture Hall ABC again. 
Some one got it right. Spit (or spick) and span. Well done!