Sunday, December 16, 2007

MIscellaneous - From 2007

December 26, 2004 in remembrance
December 26, 2004 in remembrance magnify

I would never forget the fateful day of December 26, 2004.

Prior to that day, tsunami was just a Japanese word, and a phenomenon that will only occur in Japan. Now, I believe it is Indonesian - Acehnese to be precise, and can occur even here in Malaysia. It is no longer as foreign as the Japanese Katakana.

That week till end of the year of 2004, I was on leave. I had not taken long leave for a long time and I thought the family deserves some kind of holiday. So I decided to take a driving tour of the peninsular, going up North, up to Langkawi.

This holiday was supposed to be a leisure one. The destination was not important. What matters was to enjoy the journey itself.

So I drove to Lumut using the coastal road through Kuala Selangor and spent a couple of days there. Nothing fancy there I guess. We spent a couple of hours on the beach in Teluk Batik Lumut, lazing around. The kids took up kayaking and enjoyed the water there. An uncle living in Manjung provided the accommodation, so it was a plesant two-day stay.

On the 24th, I drove to Taiping. Taiping was just a stop over and we are supposed to move on to Penang on the fateful day of Dec 26 for a beach picnic and by end of the day, move on to Langkawi.

I had it all figured out.

Or so I thought.

I fell ill - I can't remember the exact date, most likely upon reaching Taiping. It was a case of bad flu. I was in no position to drive, and being in Taiping was the perfect tonic for it. Like I have said, we were in no rush. I may have gotten the long leave, and we have ample of time.

Noon that day - the most tragic day in human history, I received an sms from my uncle in Manjung, "Aman kat mana?" he asked. I was surprised with the question as I didn't expect him to be wanting to monitor my whereabout. "Taiping. Kenapa?" was my response. But he didnt reply.

I only came to know of the tragedy during the 8 pm news. By then the news of the devastation was trickling in. No one had any inkling what was exactly happenning or the extent of it.

By then, I knew that my family could have been part of the statistic. We could have been wiped out. I was definitely planning on a sea-side picnic in Penang that day, and we definitely should be in Langkawi by end of the day.

But we didn't make it - thanks to the flu.

Over the next few weeks, colleagues through out the Hyprotech offices worldwide were sending me emails asking me about the situation here in Malaysia. We were lucky, the devastation was just a fraction of those experienced by the Indonesians and other countries. "And I am thankful," I told them. " For I could have been there along with my family enjoying the beaches of Penang."

But fate intervened that day.

Pardon me if this entry sounds like it is about me. No, it is not. It is about the 250,000 who died in the tragedy and many more millions who lost practically everything to the tsunami. My near miss is nothing of concern and just like a particle of dust in the history of mankinds.

Alfatihah to all who died.


I sincerely hope those affected by the tsunami have been able to rebuild their lives. And my hope is that all the funds collected have been fully disbursed to those victims. But I know this is only wishful thinking on my side. Remember the Penang victims who only got their house prior to Raya puasa this year, nearly three years later?

I wish we would audit all these accounts.

To think that nearly 200K people died in Aceh alone is mind boggling. It was the most tragic of all of human tragedy. For someone who had spent weeks in Aceh (albeit in the PRamlee's home town of Lhokseumawe - an oil and gas town bigger than Kerteh) - training the Acehnese process simulation, I felt it for them. Especially the Hariri clan do have some Acehnese bloods.

You feel so small in the face of the earth.

I had thought of adopting a kid in the aftermath of the tsunami. But it didn't work out.

Tags: | Edit Tags
Wednesday December 26, 2007 - 06:21am (SGT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 0 Comments
The Senjakala Rambling

This week has been a slow week in as far as visitors are concerned.

I guess it is inevitable. I have been less political in the past weeks since Bersih and Hindraf, and people like to read those better than stories about me and my families. Hahaha, I have no problem with that.

Other than that, people have been getting plain bored with my story mory lah.

Talking about politics, I have been warned by a concerned friend to start burning any yellow t-shirts, if I have any, for fear that one day the police might come a-knocking at my door.

I responded to his serious-sounding sms, half jokingly said, "Eh, you know where I can buy that Bersih t-shirt? I should have bought it earlier."

He was half screaming at me back, "Dude, I am asking you to burn it, not buy it. If I were you, I would even burn my yellow underwear!"

Hahaha, he is a funny guy. Of course he doesn't know that I don't have a yellow underwear.

I told him that I am no Anwar Ibrahim or Mat Sabu!

Anyway, I have a couple of yellow t-shirt, long before it was made fashionable by Bersih. I am not worried about t-shirt to be honest. At times though, I do wonder about blog. Then the other question would be, should I delete the entry and pics in my blog on the rally? We didn't do anything wrong. This is not a police state, even if the police would like to claim it as theirs.

When I sms-ed my sis on Nov 10 about the rally, she told me later that her thought was more like, "Oh no, not another one. Would I need to visit him at the Penjara Kamunting?".

Again I thought she was funny.

Well, I think the police has been witch-hunting with the recent arrest of many activists, not-with-standing those of Hindraf. And the Nurin murder case is still unsolved. The culprit who released the the pictures of her post-mortem is going to get away scot free despite police statement warning the public that they are closing in on the suspect.

Empty promises. Typical.

Similar to those feel good statements our politicians are keen to tell the public to show us how lucky we are.

I remember in 1998, a few months after Anwar was sacked and arrested, Rafidah Aziz was in Houston for a conference. So us Malaysian Houstonites were invited to a public forum with her at the Four Season Hotel (??). After the speech on mostly bitching about Anwar, during the question and answer, this writer found the courage to ask her this question.

"Dato Seri, we have been warned many times about the over-heating of the economy and the impending economic crisis. Why didn't we pay heed to all these warnings? Instead, we kept on saying how well our fundamentals were," I asked.

She didn't look too pleased with the question. She prefers political question.

Of course she went on denying that there was the overheating of the economy, and blamed it on the speculators. Since then too, I have read books by Prof Jomo, and attended many lectures by Prof Ubai as part of my MBA program and I guess I knew a bit more now than then.

Nonetheless, why can't we all call a spade a spade? If the economy is doing badly, why don't we admit it, and takes actions to rectify it?

We don't like bad news, especially if it is painful to all. We prefer good news, even the news is not true. It makes us feel good. The economy is doing well. We will have 6% growth this year. Our inflation will be at lowly 2%; never mind that actual is over 20% or more. Our election is fair, nevermind that they would gerrymandeer it every now and then. Everybody is getting their fair share of the economic pie despite report saying that Malaysia has one of the world's most skewed wealth distribution.

So that Gerakan vice youth chief would be sacked by Koh Tsu Koon for saying what many believe to be the truth, even if part of it was exaggerated a bit. The government is saint, and infallible. They are the untouchables; like their counterparts in India.

We feel good when Pak Lah gave 180 cows for Korban; as if it comes from his pocket. We feel great when Kayveas gave 30 camels for korban himself. At Hussein Onn, the mosque committee invited a Chinese MP to officiate the Kurban ceremony; oblivious to the fact that this is a religious event. What's next? Invite him to be the imam for the Solat Raya too?

What some mosque committee would do to show their political connection and affiliation even while doing something for God.

I don't know; I think things are going from bad to worse. We should be able to take stock and rectify the situation. It takes a man to admit mistakes; and I don't see that man in the establishment right now.


This is what I call a rambling. Hahaha, what's my point, really?

I really don't know myself!

Tags: | Edit Tags
Monday December 24, 2007 - 06:49pm (SGT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 2 Comments
Three helping and A Wedding
Three helping and A Wedding magnify

What has gotten into me?

Three helpings at a wedding feast in Seremban today is not going to help me lose weight, and I need to lose weight fast. The foods at the wedding were too good not to be finished off by this writer. The fact that it has been months since his last jogging rounds in Hussein Onn is only making it worse for him.

Of course cendol as a desert after that hearty lunch is not going to help either.



In any case, I love going to family and relative's wedding. Actually the idea to meet up not-so-distant relatives that I don't frequently meet somehow appeals to my senses. It really makes me feel good today to be meeting with the host Pak Karim who was nice enough to come to my house 4 years ago for a small kenduri. Since then I have been back twice to two of his childrens' weddings. Not to mention seeing again PCAziz, cousins Abg Nai, Ned and Kak Anne and many other long lost relatives.

The Hariris were in full force today. Mak, KSham, this writer, Aboy, Ani, Ata, Farah and Aishah were all there. It is the biggest assembly of the Hariris outside of Raya gathering.

All in all, I would say that this is the biggest assembly of the Bulan's Minang clan in the home state in recent years.


That's Mak with PC Aziz and MC Maznah (the anak-anak Adam Chemana, a Minang from Tasik Meninjau and a Royal Malaysian Custom officer), and in the next pics is with PC Yan.

Oh by the way, did I tell you the acar and the daging masak hitam (?) were excellent?

Oh my God, I am begginning to sound like Bapak, who loved his food!


This writer having the time of his life. I like this pic - it shows a different side of me I seldom see. It was taken by Arif. The gamelan band at the wedding. Not too bad, but personally I prefer a ghazal outfit anytime. But this is a nice change from recorded music.

Hang on a second. Where is the wedding pictures? Where is the bride and the bridegroom?

Unfortunately we were there very early and were able to catch with quite a number of relatives. But left while most were having their lunch. By that time, the couple was nowhere to be seen and hence we didn't get to meet up with them.

Hmmm, looks like we were just using their wedding to meet up with the clan. Ok, whose wedding is next, and when?

Tags: | Edit Tags
Saturday December 22, 2007 - 05:11pm (SGT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 1 Comment
What we will do for Richard Clayderman
What we will do for Richard Clayderman magnify

I don't understand why Genting is so popular.

The Singaporeans come to Malaysia, and they go to Genting. My Indonesian friends came and they went to Genting too. Personally though I think Genting is over-rated. It is boisterous, it is loud and it is noisy. Not to mention that it is unkempt and extremely expensive (if only to me).

If I have the choice, I would not find myself shivering in the cold at the entrance of Arena of the Stars. I would prefer to be in the comfort of my own home, watching the lizards fight for insect on the ceiling. But with me being the slave to my kids, I agreed to drive them to Genting to to enable them to watch their pianist idol Richard Clayderman in action. Mind you, more than a year ago, I did the same thing when they wanted to attend a concert by Maksim.

I do enjoy the romantic songs of Richard Clayderman. This is one popularity I can comprehend, though many a times his beautiful songs are just too painful. But seriously I don't want to indulge myself in concert anymore. I am not getting any younger, so I tried not to attend those things no more.

Arif and Akmal will be entertaining my guests at next week's office warming which should include one of my favourite teachers cikgu Dr Fatanah; so I guess this concert is nicely timed to get them into the performing mode.

Luckily it didn't rain on the way up, but I am nervous thinking about the journey down. The mist is quite thick and on a bad night, the road might trecherous due to limited visibility. As we were early, we went for our early dinner at the First World Indoor Amusement Park.

This is where I found it boisterous, loud and dirty. It is way too crowded and at times I feel like I am in Hong Kong.

May be I don't like crowded places, much like what I said in an earlier entry. May be, I don't know. If not for the kids, I would not be here.

The two briyani and the couple of drinks we ordered cost me a whopping RM38. Man, this place is damn expensive.

Arif akmal at richard

In the end, as I have two hours to kill while waiting for the kids to be entertained by the King of Romance - King Richard - I managed to convince myself that an RM11 hot vanilla is worth the price for me to get a sofa and a hotspot to write this entry at Coffee Beans - my first in more than a year.

Aah heavenly.

Genting, anyone? Thank you very much. Gimme Maxwell Hill anytime!

FREE service provided by


UPdated 22 Dec 2007 at 1958 hours

Someone sms me late this afternoon and said he was disappointed with the concert. Apparently he prefers the 'older' selections like Lady Di and many others. The kids didn't complain about the song selection; in fact enjoyed some of the surprises in the concert.

However, one common complain stuck out. For some reasons, his jokes were directed to the mainly Chinese audience. If you don't speak the language, then you are lost. As he pointed out, "Typical of the frog, simply refused to learn English."

I am sure the frog was directed to a certain pianist Frenchman! He is a funny lawyer, and a Clayderman fan. Apparently this was his second - and last, he insisted - concert due to that reason.

Well, what can you expect? For one, the audience is mainly Chinese. Arif said too few Malays were in the audience on the way back to KL. I said, "The Malays would mainly watch Konset JomHeboh!" He laughed. So in some way, King Richard was only doing what's expected of him to please his audience.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Airport Polonia - What does a Polish airport doing in the midst of the Malay Archipelago?

So Airport Polonia is in the news again!

I have not heard that name for a long, long time. Airport Polonia is a name from 80s made famous - to many of us - by Kumpulan Harmoni. Kumpulan Harmoni, on the other hand, is a group of four, led by Zubir Ali, who made poetic songs as their calling.

Of course I was away at uni in Melbourne, so during the year my diet was more on English pop music; I had no idea that poetic songs were making in big in Malaysia then, with Harmoni pioneering the way, until I returned home during the summer hols.

Then the song "Penantian" was the song of the year that year (sorry, can't recall the exact year). Even though Zubir Ali was no Mawi - he's better actually and he can sing eventhough he's no M.Nasir, but his strength (and hence Harmoni's) was his music with poetic lyrics. (To be honest, anything ballad would make it big then - poetic or thrash lyrics. Not quite, but close to.)

One of the song in the Penantian album, was a poem written by Zubli Zainordin about Airport Polonia. Azie's voice was so soft, so romantic. She sounds great.

I remember the conversation about this song very well at our house in Bukit Kerajaan.
Sister:"So where do you think is Airport Polonia located?"

Me: "This is a Pop Kuiz question. Give me a question with more substance."
Sister: "OK, so where on earth is Airport Polonia?"
Me: "Ah well, there goes my plan to save the world. OK, it has to be in Poland."
Sister: "And you told me you are so good in Geography that your teacher gave you RM1. You are wrong, it is in Medan Indonesia."

So I have always wondered then, how the 'heaven' did they derive the name Polonia for an airport located in the Northern part of Sumatra. It sounds Polish to me, but then again may be not. "Must be some Batak name," I thought. I had passed through this airport many times during my days at Hyprotech, on my way to the gas fields of Aceh, and I had never bat an eyelid about the name while I was there. But while the airport was a bit crowded and perhaps rundown, I never had problem there with the authorities unlike Palembang.

Until the news 2 days ago about the fire at Airport Polonia which destroyed a good part of the Bandara. That basically triggered my interest in that name again after all these years. Searching the web in general, Wikipedia in particular, I found that the name Polonia is indeed Polish. The area where the airport was built was owned by these Polish entrepreneurs who developed the area for tobacco farming.

Don't ask me how these two Polish entrepreneurs got to own a good piece of real estate in the third biggest town in Indonesia.
I thought I should celebrate the beautiful music of Harmoni while I hope that the Indonesian government would repair and upgrade the airport quickly and swiftly. The song Airport Polonia was about a group of Malaysian poets meeting their Indonesian counterparts in Medan, I guess, for a discussion on poems and literature.

Airport Polonia - Zubli Zainordin
Aku tiba jua oh Polonia
Didakap jambangan senyum
Jari-jari lembut menyambutku
Sebagai pengembara yang rindu
Terasa senang dihati
Rindu terubat sudah
Bila ketemu di Polonia
Penuh memori
Salam puisi aku ucapkan
Pada kalian saudaraku
Ketanah air ku kan kembali
Membawa kenangan abadi

Tuesday December 4, 2007 - 10:22pm (SGT)

Monday, December 3, 2007

A blast from the past - Magni Nominis Umbra

King Edward VII primary school will be celebrating its 125th year anniversary in 2008 and I thought I should kick-start the celebration by remembering my three years of being a Tiger. As the saying goes, "Once a Tiger, always a Tiger".

The plaque at the school states the following fact:

"In 1883, the Central School was opened to house its first 13 students. Its first headmaster was Mr Francis Stainer BB (London) who served between 1901-1921. In order to cater for more students and their needs, a new building was constructed in 1904 in the former site of Taiping railway station, which was the first railway station in the Malay States. The school was officially opened by DYMM Sultan Idris Mushidul Azam Shah in 1905. It was subsequently renamed to King Edward VII National school in conjunction with the coronation of England’s 7th King in 1901. The school is renowned for its academic and sports potential; and it is alma mater to many well known educationists, corporate and country leaders. The school is under the administration of the Ministry of Education."

There you go; a brief history of King Edward. The writing leaves much to be desired, but I would take it at face value.

At least there is some description.

Born and raised in Taiping, I guess we were destined to be Edwardians. While I started my primary school in the town of the Perak Man, bapak got a transfer back to Taiping on health reason at the end of 1972. Even if I had enjoyed my stint at SRJK(I) Lenggong and had lots of good friends there, I guess no one complained about living in a bigger town that is Taiping.

The green rugby field and the rugby post. It was at this end I nearly scored a try for KE, but I was 'tackled' at the last minute, practically on the line. The pic on the right was our playground, underneath the century old raintrees - playing the guli, guli batu and of course popia (using tennis ball). Sakit wo if kena bantai with the tennis ball.

I remember well my first day at KE; I was initially given a seat at 4B. They must have thought that small town boy would not do well in a bigger town’s school. But when the class teacher tested me on my reading - I was asked to read a paragraph from an English book, they put me into class 4A instead. I must have passed the test.

Our teachers at KE. Mrs Wong was my class teacher in Std 5, Mrs Kuppu in Std 4. Mr Naranjan Singh was the coach who took us to the pinnacle of Perak rugby in 1975. Ustaz Adnan lives nearby my mum's house in Taiping. Next to Ustaz Adnan is the teacher who announced MRSM entrance test and who broke the news to me about the interview at Pejabat Tanah. We even had a dental nurse in the school, and she would come over weekly to announce the 'chosen' one. This pic was taken in 1976; the dental nurse in 1975 was cuter, so we didn't mind at all!

I was more academically more consistent at KE than I was in Lenggong - that is, I was never able to get No 1 at KE. That was apparently reserved for my best friend Zakri Khir who is of Malay-Chinese parentage. Even the No 2 spot was already reserved - to Cheong Gim Leong. Aah, well. While I was no longer the star as I was in Lenggong, I was not anonymous either. Unlike in Lenggong where the school was co-ed, KE was boys' school. Being a boys' school, we thought we were macho kids then. We had more freedom to do boy's stuff. Of course the other schools in Taiping were not as good and were not in the league of KE.

Or so we thought.

We had given 'names' for the other schools in Taiping. First and foremost was our sworned enemy – the St George School. They were the Georgie Podgie; they were sissies to our minds. Even the gal’s school Treacher Methodist Girl School (TMGS) was not spared. They were the Tiny Monkey Goes to School gals! For some reasons the Convent Girls School was spared by us.

Well, we weren't interested in gals during those years! Yet, I guess.

The hall where we used to play badminton and my classrooms (ground floor 4A) and 1st floor 6A. These building were constructed in 1904 and opened in 1905 - wow, a class A contractor in the days of yore. I bet you, even if when the KLCC had crumpled, these buildings will still be standing. The pillars are so big, to support t.e building. The height of the ceiling must be at least 30 ft high, or equivalent to two storey building nowadays.

Our academic prowess was nothing to shout about. We did OK I guess. But KE was very fierce in protecting and maintaining our sporting traditions. Of course we were the best in Taiping in soccer by virtue of winning 2 out of 3 finals at the Larut Matang district level. But it was in rugby the Edwardians really excelled at. We had teams even in primary school and the pinnacle of our sporting achievement then was being the Perak champs. Year laters of course King Edward went on to be the first and only non-boarding school to win the Malaysian school championship at the secondary level, even beating MCKK and STAR.

Of course there were not that many schools then with a rugby team. I think there were three in all of Perak. In rugby term, bapak’s alma mater (Clifford School Kuala Kangsar) was our arch rival. In 1974, KE was beaten something to the tune of 98-0 in a primary school competition by Clifford.

So when I was in std 6, it was up to us to redeem the school's pride. Obviously we were quite apprehensive preparing for the game. The coach Mr Naranjan Singh, a former Malaysian player - if my memory serves me right, had planned for us a very important strategy this time around. We were to take our free kicks short; and take it quickly. In other words, once we were given a free kick, everybody would have to be behind the ball in seconds, and Muniandy, our captain, would take it short.

The idea is to catch the other team as they would have to retreat at least 5 yards from the ball when it was taken. If not, we would gain another five yards into their territory. They had to retreat and retreat fast.

When the times come however, within 10 minutes we were behind 8-0 by two tries and the previous year's debacle was in our mind at that time. "Oh no, not again!" we thought. But soon we got into our stride and applied the strategy well. It worked. The Cliffordians didn’t expect the quick free kicks; they didn't know what had hit them. And we went on a scoring spree, with this blogger nearly scoring a try from a middle-of-the-field run.

But he was brought down on the line at the very last moment.


So we had our revenge that year - we went on to win 19-11. It was a tactical win for the Edwardians. We were tactically superior. But I must admit that it was a hard fought game. I had cramps at night in the aftermath of that game.

In the final, we beat Sekolah Khir Johari Sg Sumun 22-6. This was an easier game for us; we were superior than Sg Sumun in all aspects. I even had a nemesis on the pitch – someone my size and both of us were trying to get each other riled up.

But I had the last laugh with the trophy at the end of the game.

My only fame as champions. Funny thing, I forgot to tuck my collar during the photo session, so I was cursing myself afterwards for being the odd man out. Years later, Eric Cantona would wear his collar straight up and made it very popular and 'cool'. But I had my collar up in the photo 20 year earlier! I believe this team did well in Under 18 later on in life. To be honest, had I stayed on at KE, I would not have made it to the U-18 team. I was only in this team by virtue of my size, and by the time we were 17, many had caught up with me. I was no sporting animal in any case. I know that. Rugby had allowed this 'kaki bangku' a chance at sporting fame.

While the majority of the students were Malays, we had our shares of other races too to provide competition to us all. And the teachers were from all races of Malaysia – Indians, Malays, Chinese, Sikh. You name it, we have it.

Those were the days when we had fun teasing our Sikh friends. I know, I know; we should not have, but we weren’t infallibles then. “Cop bai, cop bai, off” were our favourites phrase everytime we saw someone of Sikh descent (with a turban of course). If you didn’t say "off" when someone saw a Sikh before you do, you would get a poke behind your back, so to speak. It was kids’ stuff basically, until one day we saw a Bai cycling in front of the school and many of us were screaming “Cop bai” and was of course overheard by the person himself.

So he swung around into the school compound, and asked us if we have any problem with him.

We were stunned into silence. Luckily we had a Chinese teacher (seated, second from right in the rugby pic above) with us and he protected us by telling the Sikh cyclist that we were just talking amongst ourselves and not about him; so the Sikh left soon afterwards. The main culprit who got the toungue lashing from the teacher was of course the guy who started it - Sivanathan; he is now the secretary of Old Edwardians (4th in the first row from right in the rugby pic). Ah well, I don’t know why the Sikh was the subject of our tease then when we had so many of them in our midst.

Of course I have many other sweet stories about the old days and about King Edward. Except for Ustaz Adnan who live near Mak’s house in Sri Kota and another ex-classmate friend Rahman Salleh (4th from left in the rugby pic, next to this writer) also nearby, I have lost contact with many friends. I thought next year’s anniversary would be a good time to reacquaint myself with them, and re-live the pride and joy of being a tiger again.

We used to be called Edwardian Muda in this school magazine. I guess we are now Edwardian Tua - Old Edwardians.

Magni Nominis Umbra.

I hope no one would be offended by my Sikh story. It was us in the mid 70s, and done without any malice or prejudice.

A question comes to mind. I have four alma maters - two in primary (Lenggong and KE) and 2 in secondary (KE MRSM KB). So what am I? Old Edwardian? ANSARAn? Or am I Lenggongians or should it be Lenggongites?


Tags: taiping Edit Tags
Sunday December 2, 2007 - 10:45pm (SGT) Edit Delete

Comments(2 total) Post a Comment

Once A Tiger, Always A Tiger. My journey begin at Std 6 (1984). Changing as Cliffordians to Edwardians, I remember was told, by a teacher, to change my standard long pants, to a short one as school uniform, technically which I don't have (I am pioneering the long pants to KE then, nowadays all school children wearing a long pants)
Saturday December 8, 2007 - 04:26am (ICT) Remove Comment

Online Now
It is all about the inertia. To change one would need to overcome that inertia, and it's always not something we relish. At least for a year, you have the taste of studying under the majestic pillars of King Edward school building. It remains, for obvious reason, my favourite colonial building in Taiping.

Saturday December 8, 2007 - 08:04am (SGT) Remove Comment

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Malaysian Dad, American Dad

I must say that I have - yet again - enjoyed Petronas' Hari Raya drama-advert.

I do wonder sometimes what they would come up next. It seems to me, year after year, Petronas keep on churning out poignant drama-advert. Would it dry up soon? Certainly not Petronas' money - not any time soon, I hope not, with the crude oil price hovering near the US$100 mark. But it is the creative idea, and the presentation, that matter here and I hope it won't dry up anytime soon.

You see, my sis was wondering about bapak's reaction, when we - the elder siblings - questioned him about the 'new' car he brought home one day in the 60s. To be honest, I remember that day quite well. I remember dad taking us for a spin, with us questioning him about the newness of the car to him, when we were told by his friend who was there with us at that time that "we must be excited about the new car!"

I do not, however, remember his response. May be he just smiled away, may be he tried to explain it to us. I don't know. To me it doesn't matter now, and I am sure it didn't matter then.

We were then, I guess, his adorable little kids (hahaha...yeah yeah I know) and the apples of his eyes and nothing that we say or do then would make him feel down.

It takes a lot more than that to get him upset or make him feel down.

Just like the Burung Murai dad. His kid was perhaps bored; perhaps playing the fools, who knows? But he - the dad - would answer it lovingly and without a hint of boredom.

While I applaud Burung Murai dad for his calmness and self control in answering the son's continual bombardment of the same question, here is where I believe our belief and education methodology are below par compared to other cultures.

I remember reading a book on Dr Richard Feynman, the Nobel prize winner for Physics. For the uninitiated, he assisted in the development of the atomic bomb and was in the panel who investigated in the space shuttle Challenger disaster. He is perhaps one of the most famous scientist and I believe one of the most brilliant.

But that's not the reason why I brought his name up. I read one of his book, the semi autobiographical "Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman - Adventures of a Curious Character" and was taken by his description on how his dad taught him true meaning of knowledge, and the way we should be seeking knowledge.

Apparently like most true blue Americans, Feynman Sr loved the outdoor and so he used to take Richard around in the countryside, especially for bird watching. Richard of course, like the burung Murai kid, would ask his dad about the various birds that they were watching.

Richard: "Burung apa tu, Abah?"
Malaysian dad: "Burung Murai tu 'nak."
Richard: "Burung apa?"
Malaysian dad: "Burung Murai tu 'nak."
Richard: "Burung apa?"
Malaysian dad: "Burung Murai tu 'nak."
.....and so on and so forth.

But Feynman Sr is not Malaysian. So unlike burung Murai dad and other Malaysian dads, Feynman Sr would not simply answer that question for Richard. Before you start pointing out how great our traditional Malay cultures and values vis-a-vis Feynman Sr's American Jewish education philosophy (if I may describe it that way), let me tell you that Feynman Sr would instead tell his son on the detail characteristic of each bird, their habitats, the eating habits, and various other information that would characterize each bird specie.

Here is how I envisage the conversation between Richard Feynman and his dad.

Richard: "Burung apa tu, Abah?"
American dad: "There are as many as 20 species of this bird."
Richard: "Burung apa?"
American dad: "Do you know that the heart of this bird is very similar to human's heart? It has four compartments."
Richard: "Burung apa?"
American dad: "The specie is bit shy but is very protective of its territory. Every season it will lay about 2-3 eggs ; its voice is very pleasing to the ears."

...then after the umpteenth times; after American dad had exhausted all his knowledge on the bird...

Richard: "Burung apa?"
American dad: It is the Murai, son. The main types are called burung murai batu, murai hitam, murai Kampung, Murai Everett etc. But funnily the Malays in Asia would call someone who talk too much as "mulut murai" or "Murai mouth."

Richard: "Terernya abah!"

Feynman Sr: "It is not difficult, dude. You can find all these in the Wikipedia!"

(Obviously the detail of the conversation is the figment of my imagination, but I guess the philosophy is not. And from the above conversation, it is more logical for Richard to be asking the same question over and over again!)

In his book, Dr Feynman describes in reasonable detail how his dad would describe each specie to him.

"This is how I learned," concluded Dr Feynman in his book," not by knowing the names of the birds, but their characteristics!"

We tend to teach our kids the opposite way. This is a cat; that is burung Murai; or Itu gajah, but we could not tell our children what constitute a cat, a burung Murai or an elephant. In the end, our kids knew the name of bird, but nothing else. We should not only be able to tell our kids the different car model, but how it works - the engine, the gearbox etc, and the different characteristics between each model. It should be easy nowadays.

Advancement in science is not made on knowing the name of the specie, but its characteristics.

Feynman went on to become one of the greatest mind in physics; his sister is also a professional physicist. His dad (parents) must have done something right; something we ought to emulate.

And that's how, I believe, America become a great superpower, while we are still a third world country; and that's why, in an earlier entry, I thought so highly of the American Education philosophy. We are still a long way to go to achieve what they had achieved. Not until we change our attitude towards education.

Every single one of us.

Read about Dr Richard Feynman here. If you have the opportunity to read his book, do so by all means. I do wish I had 'known' him much earlier. He is an amazing character; Dr Feynman is. I am all in awe of him.

His philosphy is that if you can't explain, to a general audience/laymen or freshmen, the complex theory of physics, then it is not fully understood yet. So I believe his books and lectures are all readable by us. Much like what Stephen Hawking had done - another brilliant physicist & mathematician.

This is one scientist who would dare pointing out to Niels Bohr his flawed thinking!

The book should give some hints how his dad Melville developed his curiosity.

FRom Wikipedia: The young Feynman was heavily influenced by his father, Melville, who encouraged him to ask questions to challenge orthodox thinking.

Again here: His habit of direct characterization would sometimes disconcert more conventional thinkers; for example, one of his questions when learning feline anatomy was: "Do you have a map of the cat?" (referring to an anatomical chart).

BTW his exploits during the press conference of the Challenger accident task force was legendary. You should read about this.

I also love this quote attributed to Dr Feynman. He is witty - a trait he got from his mum, yet insightful, but certainly not blasphemous:

"God was invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now, when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you're taking away from God; you don't need him anymore. But you need him for the other mysteries. So therefore you leave him to create the universe because we haven't figured that out yet; you need him for understanding those things which you don't believe the laws will explain, such as consciousness, or why you only live to a certain length of time--life and death -- stuff like that. God is always associated with those things that you do not understand. Therefore I don't think that the laws can be considered to be like God because they have been figured out." — Feynman Online Quotes

Tags: education Edit Tags
Tuesday November 6, 2007 - 09:46pm (SGT) Edit Delete

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Menjelang Syawal ’07 – The Ketupat & Dodol Story

Menjelang Syawal ’07 – The Ketupat & Dodol Story

Hey you, just in case you have not noticed, or that you have not been keeping count, or that may be you have just came back from a hiatus at Gunung Ledang or some deserted island in the middle of the Pacific, we are on the last leg of Ramadhan - less than a week away from the most celebrated day in Malaysia - Hari Raya Aidilfitri or the end of Ramadhan celebration. I guess that gives us the permission to start thinking about the auspicious day just ahead of us. Yay!!

To me, Hari Raya would almost always be associated with ketupat, never mind that in KL you could find it all year round. It is the symbol of Hari Raya. You will see it everywhere, especially in decorating the streets of Kuala Lumpur. To me, it is the main dish for Hari Raya. I would hit the ketupat (nasi) and kuah kacang right after solat raya - like man possessed, and all day long for sure. Kuah kacang raya to me is one that contains some mince meat, just to differentiate it from the the kuah kacang we can normally get with our satay kajang, all year round.

(Pic taken by zali, I think)

I love the ketupat, but to be honest, I don't know how to weave the palm leaves to make the pouch and I am too old to learn now...hahahaha. So I would only buy ready-made ones. Of course someone in the family would be able to do it, so I would leave it to them to do the needful.

I would not mind not having anything else for Raya, but I have to have my ketupat! And it is easy to make after someone had woven the palm leaves of course lah - just boil them for few hours. You would not even be there. But be careful not to overfill the ketupat pouch - it will be 'hard' when it is cooked. Tak sedap. Too little, and it will be too soft. But put the right amount of rice (3/4th or was it 2/3rd?) and it will be just nice! As the rice cooks, the grains begin to expand to fill the pouch and the rice becomes compressed. This gives the ketupat its characteristics and texture. Tender but firm; that's how I like my ketupat.

But don't give me ketupat daun palas and the likes lah. I don’t fancy them at all. That is the northern states of Kedah and Perlis’ version. I guess they are steamed instead, and use glutinous rice. I tell you bro, palas is no fun to eat one. Since this is made of pulut, it is more like lemang and too glutinous for my liking. But this to me is a poor man's lemang or rather lazy people's lemang! Jangan mare, Kedahan. Betui per. How else would you describe it?

I would like to story mory about lemang, but nantilah dulu - next one kut.

Give me ketupat (nasi) anytime, or give me no ketupat at all. Ntah la, tak penah minat that triangular ketupat daun palas. May be the slightly odd shaped ketupat (nasi) is more appealing to my eyes and hence my palate.

Anyway, here is a pantun ketupat.

Nyiur gading puncak mahligai
Sayang ketupat berisi inti
Hancur daging tulang berkecai
Belum dapat belum berhenti

I have not seen nor eaten ketupat with an inti, have you?

Dodol is another Raya dish though it is peculiar to the southern side of the peninsular. The Minangs, Malaccans and Johoreans (Jawa la kut) would go by this dish for Raya. Not for the people in Kelantan & Terengganu, or so I am told. They don't cook dodol for Raya.

Caption: The house where nenek would cook dodol.

I remember when I was kid in Aulong in the early 70s, nenek would have to have dodol forRaya without fail, even if she had to cook it herself. I would guess that as a Minang, dodol is quite significant to her - much as I consider that it is not Raya without ketupat! And since we live on the other side of Aulong – all within cycling distance, we would help her whenever we can.

Now if you know my nenek - she was a very petite lady and quite thin to be honest, but frail she was not, and if you know how difficult it is to cook dodol, you would think it is close to impossible for this Minang lady from Kampung Haraban in Bukittinggi in Sumatra Barat to do it on her own.

But I guess even with many of her grandchildren around, and some reasonably big enough to play rugby in primary school (ehem ehem), towards the end of the cooking process, when the dodol had become so sticky and viscous that it is no longer Newtonian fluid, she would be the one ‘stirring’ the dodol. In other words, she would be the last 'man' standing! So much for the hype that men are supposed to be stronger.

Overview of the making of dodol at my cousin Baharum's house in Kemunting on Nov 1, 2005. That's mum supervising the whole operation. The kawah was kepunyaan turun temurun. Not many inlaws, or even real sibling would want to handle the work requirement of dodol making.

A couple of years ago (Nov 2005 to be exact), the Hariris decided to cook our own dodol. The kawah besar that nenek used to use for cooking is now Mak’s, and she knew the recipe and the trick and tips well enough for us to have a go.

So we went to a cousin’s house in Kemunting, since his house is more suitable than ours for a day's worth of cooking. It has a compound and a shed; which is very important should it rain, and Taiping is of course known for its rain. Furthermore he has access to matured coconuts easily.

So with the proper ingredients (something like 5 coconuts for each kg of rice flour, may be, you need tons of coconut milk), gula kabong etc, we light up the fire at around 11 am in the morning. It was easy in the beginning. Even Arif who is not known to be masculine chipped in in the beginning.

The idea is to stir it (kacau) continuously over small fire to ensure that the mixture will not get burned in the kawah. If it did, you can practically throw away the whole thing - it is not nice to eat dodol with a hint of even a slight charred dodol.

.....and the mixture thickens. It is from here you need all the muscles you can muster. You can see mum trying the control the fire, as we need to slow cook dodol mixture, or it will burn and you have dodol with a stinging burning smell.

Tak sedap.

Caption: One hand demo on how to kacau dodol.

However, after more than 2 hours, the mixture started to thicken, changing its characteristic from Newtonian fluid to non-Newtonian fluid (read this only if you are a chemical or mechanical engineer). Then the energy and strength required to stir the mixture would be exponential. At this stage, the dodol fluid exhibited quite a character with big bubbles trying to push through from the bottom of the kawah. It looks like you have a volcano crater. Interesting behaviour - I guess the Minangs of the old days were trying to imitate the volcanic activities within the environment in Sumatra Barat to their kitchens! By 3 pm, it has thickened considerably and by then you wish you had not been so stupid to embark on the dodol project.

People started leaving the kawah as the mixture thickens. The energy and effort required would be exponential at this stage and it is best that you don't stick around! Find a reason for you to have to leave like taking pictures, and then slowly move away from the fire! ;-) My sis Farah, and my niece are in the background, starting to disappear, I guess. Eh, Azhar, kome pun nak cabut ke tu? hahahaha..I am glad this bro in law of mine was around.

“Why did we bother?” I asked mum, “Wouldn’t it be much easier just to purchase our own dodol?” Mak did not answer – to her that question need not be answered. Remember the response from Sir Edmund Hillary when people asked him why he had to climb Everest? Because it is there!

Dad and son at the helm, having fun in the shade. You can see the bubble forming in the right pic. Eh Mai, asyik dok tengok je, when are you going to help with the chore? Oh and Azhar did come back to help. I told you I can rely on him. This dodol was cooked with lots of love, and lots of sweat! Tu yang sedap giler tu. Haha puji sendiri!

By the time we finished (when the dodol was in semi-solid form), it was about 5 pm. We had been cooking by the fire for a grueling 6 hours. We were totally exhausted.

For the next 15 minutes after the completion, I was the horizontal man. I could not even move. I don’t quite feel I have a limb anymore.

When I looked back at what we did that year, it reminds me so much of nenek, who looked so frail but has the strength of two men, easily. I would not do it yearly for sure. I don’t have her strength and her will power. Inilah anak lepas merdeka .

In hindsight though, it was a fun family affair, especially when everybody chipped in. It brought the family together for the occasion.

But I am sure I did not feel that way that day.

In conclusion, should you have a craving for a good dodol in the future, but baulk at the idea of paying top ringgit for it, trust me, it is not, and it is worth every single sen of your hard-earned ringgit. It is not like making teh tarik or cooking rice. A whole team’s effort is required to make top notch chewable and sticky, but tasty dodol. And it is hard work.

So what about you? What are you favourite Hari Raya dishes?

PS A good dodol should not be sticky to your finger, or the plate actually. If it does, then it means that it has not been cooked properly. It should not be too sweet and you would also taste the creamy side of sweetness.


Chemical Engineering 101

A Newtonian fluid (named for Isaac Newton) is a fluid that flows like water—its stress versus rate ofstrain curve is linear and passes through the origin. The constant of proportionality is known as the viscosity.

A non-Newtonian fluid is a fluid in which the viscosity changes with the applied strain rate. As a result, non-Newtonian fluids may not have a well-defined viscosity. An inexpensive, non-toxic sample of a non-Newtonian fluid sometimes known as oobleck can be made very easily by adding corn starch(cornflour) to a cup of water.

NI termasuk dodol lah ni....

There you go - our tok nenek dedulu were competent chemical engineers. They produced fanciful edible solids that were converted from newtoniann fluid to non-newtonian ones, which to my mind is one of the more difficult branch chemical engineering - fluid dynamics. As noted by a friend at Petronas, sure die one sebab nama pun 'die'namics! Funny guy. Honestly I can't still comprehend many of its behaviours.