30 November 2005

Let Me Serenade You

I read in today's The Star (StarTwo, Pg 22) that singing is good for health! An excerpt:

"...Singing is similar to meditation and walking in terms of its positive effects on health...

...People who sing regularly can improve their breathing, increase their supply of oxygen, stimulate their circulation and transfer their body into a 'balanced and energised' state..."

That does it - I'm gonna break out into song and dance everyday now. So allow me to apologize first to anyone who is within range of my flat, tone-less voice.

29 November 2005


One of the most highly anticipated films this Christmas is the adaptation of the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. There are several books in this series, so it could spawn off another film series ala Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I am looking forward to it even though I haven't read the book.

Asked to choose between book and movie, I will gladly pick books anytime. Dad doesn't understand why people like to waste energy reading when they can just pay RM8 and watch the big screen version? I personally like the written word and using my imagination to flesh out my own fantasy worlds.

So, I did what anyone else would do - I downloaded a copy of Narnia off BitTorrent! It was the entire series, and I'm shocked that the first book (L, W, & W) is only 80 pages long! But I don't blame him (C. S. Lewis) because it was written way before J. K. Rowling proved that kids can finish 700-page books in a night.

What this means, however, is that the movie will follow closely to the book. Unlike Harry Potter, the editors do not have to trim too much of the book to make the movie fit within a couple of hours. This is fantastic and I'm sure the fans will appreciate that, rather than being served an incomplete Harry Potter.

I'm off to read, do not disturb.

28 November 2005

A Little More Stable

I have calmed down a bit since discovering my room's termite infestation. In the previous post, I mentioned that I wanted to write about Guardian's disappointing Christmas Sale. In a recent post I mentioned that I wanted three items from Guardian's sale because I think they are good buys. Only one of them - the Sebamed cleanser - was a good deal. The other two are a complete disappointment.

The Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel 50g (x2 bottles) retails at Guardian for RM6.48, but is only RM5.90 at Watson's (another favourite place of mine). But upon serious consideration, I decided against buying it because my face rarely needs moisturization.

Meanwhile, the Gatsby's hair colour is selling for only RM16.80 at Watson's instead of RM18.88! I immediately bought this because I need it soon for Singapore. I bought the Gold Ash shade. Though the CG model in front of the box sports a very reddish hue, I am hardly worried because it won't work so well with dark hair like mine. But I was disappointed to learn that it doesn't cover grey hair (because it is part-bleach), an important criteria for me. More disappointing was that I only discovered that after I bought it. No matter.

I was at Giant supermarket this evening and I discovered an even better deal. They must be clearing stock or something, because a box of Calista hair colour is only RM12.88. And I'm sure this is a permanent hair colour that covers grey hair. Though the available shades aren't too appealing, I got a box anyway. So now I have two boxes of hair colour in my room. Sigh, choices... choices.

Before you think that I am a big spender with too much money, think again. I didn't used to be like this - I would consider a purchase for a long time. Unfortunately, I would take too long to consider, and by the time I decide to buy, the price has gone back up! This has happened numerous times, and I've decided to shift my thinking a little. If I know an item is definitely cheaper than the average price, I will get it. For example, the 1200ml of Sebamed cleanser will last me years. But I know it is cheaper per ml than any other good cleansers like Johnson's & Johnson's, and Nivea, so I buy it anyway.

I think that's a fair compromise, no?

Shift of Focus

I was going to blog about how Guardian's sale is not cheap anymore. But something bigger caught my attention - termites.

I opened my cupboard's top shelf to find the tell-tale sign of termite infestation. To seal the deal, there's even a couple of worker termites walking about. I felt sick to the stomach. Luckily I don't keep any clothes there, but who really knows if my clothes in the next partition is safe?

Yucks!!! Dad is not around, so I think I have to start first by clearing everything out. I just don't want to come back next semester and find my whole wardrobe gone. Eww...

27 November 2005

Alternative Thinking

If you can't bring the masses to the temple, bring the temple to the masses.

An interesting article surfaced recently. In short, monks are planning to open up small booths in shopping malls so that the public can come in for a quick dose of religion. Interesting, I say.

P.S. The audio blog for the eGenting competition will be up soon. Trying to convert the 6MB file into MP3... (Update 17-1-2006: I totally forgot all about this. But anyway, there is nothing interesting about it anyway)

26 November 2005

eGenting Programming Competition

I'm postdating this one to tomorrow because I won't be around. As the title implies, I'll be coding my ass off at the eGenting Programming Competition, up in the City of Entertainment.

I initially found out about the competition weeks before my last semester ended. I asked some friends but it was received with lukewarm response - they think it will be too hard. I thought so too, but I decided it was important to use it as a practicing ground and meet professional coders. After all, no one goes from zero to hero - a guy must slowly build up his skills from zero to lame-wannabe-hero to small-kampung-hero, and finally become a full time superhero.

What was perplexing to me was the lack of support from the school. My college loves publicity, and I expected them to push everyone in Computing programmes to enter the competition. But no... they only made a small mention of a briefing 1 week before registration ends.

So I attended the briefing with Alvin, Jackson, and YY. The briefing was simple but it managed to rope in both Jackson and YY, who were a little doubtful at first. Alvin was already very enthusiastic about it, so he didn't need convincing. There was another guy, Chan, whom I later found out to be our senior in Computer Science. Basically, out of almost 200 senior students in Computing, only 5 turned up. But our facilitator took down our contact information and promised to fix a training session during the break.

When we met up again the following week, we set 15 Nov for the training. I would be in Penang then, so I planned to fly down. I purposely proposed 15 Nov, which was a Tuesday, so I could get cheaper Air Asia tickets for weekday flights. Alas, that was not to be. With the recent hike in fuel prices, the RM1.99 holy grail is no longer attainable. Also, the tax is now RM30 instaed of RM16. In total, return air tickets will cost around RM140. Of course, it only stayed RM140 for a few days. When I checked again to book, it was RM200+! I then found out that my hostel block will be closed during the semester break so I had no room to stay. Alvin offered a place at his apartment, but I began to have second thoughts by then.

After careful deliberation I decided not to go for the training. I felt bad because I suggested the date and all, but paying more than RM200 for a single day of training is not what I had in mind. And as I soon found out, it was the right decision. 2 days before the training, Alvin told me that it was cancelled. I was shocked! I wondered what happened? Did the school pull out its official support? Or did the lecturer in charge cancel it? Regardless, I was quite angry. Imagine if I had bought those air tickets! It would have been a lot of money down the drain! Alvin said he is pulling out of the competition because he felt 'empty' without the training. I tried persuading him but he did not rejoin the competition until the training was rescheduled to 25 Nov (today).

Apart from that, I faced a lot of problems in trying to get accommodation. Knowing that the college is chock-full of cash, I tried getting the college to sponsor a couple of hotel rooms for the participants. But they wouldn't! It meant extra trouble for me because the competition ends at 6pm but the last bus to Penang leaves by 4pm. So I was hoping to get a free room to allay the RM140 price tag for a miserable room in First World Hotel. Again, I felt that the school wasn't being very supportive in this aspect. Their final word was "No" so I tried asking the guys if they were interested in boarding with me. If so, I could share the costs and it wouldn't be very expensive at all. But their main problem was that of transport back to their homes the day after.
It was then that Dad suggested I stay with one of my friends in KL and then go over to Puduraya the next day. It was a good idea, I admit, but not one which I'm comfortable doing. After all, it's a bit embarrasing (for me) to do sleepovers with friends I only know for slightly more than a year. But that plan didn't work, and I finally decided to return home after the competition itself. My final plan is this:
  1. Take the free coach service to Wisma Genting after the competition

  2. Hop onto the Raja Chulan monorail and ride to Hang Tuah

  3. From Hang Tuah, switch to the Star LRT line and ride to Plaza Rakyat

  4. From Plaza Rakyat station, walk 500m to Puduraya station and get my bus ticket

I heard that the last bus to Penang is around 12am, so I'm not that worried about getting a seat. In fact, I plan to get a later bus so I can actually walk around Bukit Bintang for a bit. I haven't been around that area at night for 2 years, so it will be nice to soak up the atmosphere (and pollution) there.

Whew! That was sure an unnecessarily long post. I will be bringing my MP3 player there, so instead of writing, I'll be trying out audio journaling. It was one of the reasons why I got the MP3 player in the first place - so I can talk instead of write about my Singapore trip next month. I will post up the audio posts after I come back, and I hope you guys can tell me what you think.

25 November 2005

Christmas is Here!

OK, maybe not. But for me it has!

Since I was in my mid-teens, Christmas has only meant one thing - The Great Guardian Sale! Guardian, Malaysia's largest chain of pharmacies organizes a month long sale from today till the end of 2005. What makes Guardian's sale more anticipated than others is that they include a full-colour catalogue in every major newspaper. So it is always a pleasure to open up your copy of the newspaper one day and discover the joyful little book sandwiched between tales of rape, robbery, and embezzlement.

I got my copy today (as if that wasn't obvious enough) and I've already picked out a few must-buy items:
  • Hair colorant: Haven't decided on which brand yet, but Gatsby's (RM18.88) seem nice enough

  • Sebamed Liquid Face & Body Wash 1000ml + 200ml + Body Lotion 50ml (RM69.88): Sure, 1200ml of facial wash will last me a few years beyond graduation, but it still has the lowest price per ml, and that's all that matters

  • Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel 50g x2 (RM6.48): I know how beneficial aloe vera gel is, but I am too lazy to extract the gel from my own aloe vera plants. So I plan to have this as a quick facial moisturizer instead of using those oily concoctions made by other companies

  • Durex Christmas Pack (Play Lubricant 100ml + Love Condom 3s) (RM17.88): Just kidding! It would have been fun to have, but completely useless to me right now. Maybe next year
Surprisingly, that's it. Just 3 items (excluding the condoms)! I remembered a few years back when I would gasp with delight every 2 pages. But this year seems so dull and rudimentary. Even the Men's section seem non-existant. What has changed? Me or Guardian?

I think the answer lies with both of us. Since being able to drive, I have exposed myself to
so many products and sales that I have become numb, and this is just another sale to me. I think Guardian is largely to blame as well. With the success of their Christmas sale, they have begun organizing mini week-long sales every month. Obviously this is a serious case of milking a cow for what it's worth. So bad, in fact, that consumers have become numb to it.

24 November 2005

I Live in London

I haven't been there myself, but those who have describe London as a bleak place with perpetually gray skies. If that's the case, then Penang has become London. For the past 3 days there's been nothing but rain and dark skies. There is nary a bright ray of sunshine, and I just love it! Of course, there are occupations where lack of sunshine is a problem, but I feel we all deserve this after the extended hot spell a few months ago. It may sound a little selfish, but I do hope the rain will stop tomorrow night when I'm on my way to Genting Highlands.

2 Minute Gratification

Barely 5 years ago, you were limited to 3 main brands when you wanted to buy instant noodles - namely Maggi, Mamee, Cintan (and some say IndoMie). Go to any fairly large convenient shop today and you'll be deluged with more than 15 brands! New local brands like E-Zee and plenty of imported noodles from Thailand, China, and Indonesia now fill up our supermarket aisles.

I get a headache choosing brands and flavours because I am very adventurous when it comes to food - willing to try anything once. Of course, some readers might debate as to how different instant noodles can be from one flavour to the next. But I have tasted some that surpass all others due to a few choice seasonings. Unfortunately that particular brand is no longer available, so I'm actively looking for the Next Best Thing.

Any suggestions?

23 November 2005

Harry Potter and the Incomplete Movie

I watched the big screen version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last night. It is the best Potter film so far, but it is too bad that so many other bits in the book did not make the cut. I understand the time limit they have, but if I watch it as a person who has not read the book I would not have understood a whole lot.

It just doesn't feel complete without revealing Rita Skeeter's secret, the romance with Chang, and the underlying tension between the three friends. But the final scenes with Voldemort are well done, and the scene after that with Cedric is particularly heart-wrenching.

22 November 2005

It Fits! Part 2

OMG! I just tried the other shirt and it fits too!

I'm so wearing that to watch Harry Potter tonight.

Small miracles do happen. :)

It Fits!

We've experienced it some time or another: We go to the shopping mall and spot a fantastic shirt or top. We try it on but find that it is a bit too small or tight. But before we put it back onto the rack, we hesitate. We look at the shirt a little longer. "It's so pretty," we think. We start fantasizing about how great we'd look if it fits us, and we might even try it on again. Then we finally buy the shirt with several illogical reasons like - "I'll get thinner soon"/"It'll loosen up once I wash it"/"It looks so fantastic no one is gonna care about my bulging spare tyre".

And then once the shirt goes home, it stays home. We never dared to wear it out due to shame, and we keep asking ourselves, "WHY did I buy it in the first place?"

I've had a couple of those happen to me several years back. The tight-fitting shirt has been kept in the closet for many years now. I never got thinner through all those years, and the shirt never got bigger. But over the past year I have lost quite a lot of weight, and out of sheer curiosity, I pulled out a shirt that was so old I don't remember when I bought it. With a deep breath I slipped it on, and Voila!


Sure it could have looked better with better defined arms and a 6-pack torso, but for now, the shirt gives people the illusion that I have those. And that's pretty fine and dandy, thank you.

Now where did the other shirt go....?

21 November 2005

Jay Can't Act

I'm so gonna get butchered for this post, but I must say it for those who dare not - Jay Chou cannot act!

I (finally) watched the Hong Kong production of Initial D starring every adolescent girl's favourite Taiwanese. Although I was one of the first guys in hostel to download the bootleg copy of the show, I'm also one of the last to watch it. My hesitation stemmed from the fact that I have not watched the original anime. Plus I don't have much interest in cars/racing/modifications. But I finally pulled myself to make an appointment amid my busy schedule of doing nothing. And I'm proud to say that I made it through the whole movie with minimal emotional scarring.

Seriously, I like Jay Chou's songs (his latest - November's Chopin is commendable) although I do not get what he sings, with my limited Mandarin and all. I have great respect for Jay as a singer, songwriter, and composer, but not as an actor. I still don't understand why he was cast as Takumi, the shy boy by day, road devil by night. I think Edison Chen would have made a better choice as he also has the boyish features and mata sepet.

His acting is as inspiring as a carrot. Hey Jay! The director asked you to act shy, not doped out on Prozac! His expressions are so deadpan he should be given the title of Most Consistent Expression of the Year. Even when showing off his trophy, he is only capable of the I-want-to-smile-but-my-Botox-won't-allow-it expression:

I cringe everytime he has to talk or show any emotion, as in the following examples from Initial D:
  • Whenever he talks, it sounds as if he's bored and disinterested, not shy/withdrawn.

  • His scenes with Anne Suzuki are the worst. I can't really buy the whole romantic set up. In fact, it was so bad that during one of their scenes I actually avoided watching it by going for a pee.

  • At one moment after having his first kiss (and probably his first premature ejaculation too), Takumi had to appear love sick. I think Jay prepared for the role by consuming 5 bottles of codein cough syrup.

  • In the final scene where he cried, he definitely needs more eye drops.

If Initial D 2 is made (and I suspect that it will), I still haven't decided if I would want to suffer through it. Would you?

20 November 2005

Termites! Part 2

Another victim of the white ants in my house:

I am frankly so disgusted that I'm not gonna write about it.

But just in case you were wondering, it is was a bedside table.

19 November 2005

Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb

Due to some freaky circumstances, I accidentally dropped my recently bought MP3 player on the ground. That feeling of dread filled my entire body, bone and sinew. I quickly picked it up and was immensely relieved to discover that it was still working. I cursed myself for letting this even happen. The fastest way to kill a cheap electronic gadget is to drop it. Even my so-called branded Kensington optical mouse went crazy after a single drop. I can never stand the heartache of spoiling my own stuff. If it was some other person, I could happily point fingers but if it's myself I'd be grilled by Dad.

And some wonder why I never buy 'quality' products like iPod. Now you do.

Meow Meow

I love cats. Out of all domestic animals, I like cats the most. The worst possible pet, I think, is a goldfish. As much as I dislike dogs, at least they can interact with you. Fishes just swim around in circles until the day they float belly-up.

Anyway, back to cats. Dad loves them too, but we do not keep one as it is too difficult to maintain them. After all, he's working 6 days a week and I'm away most of the year. But cats have a natural affinity with Dad, and increasingly with me as well. I've seen stray cats loiter around the house. Some run away at our sight while a few bravely venture into my hands.

There was a time a couple of years back when this skinny cat kept meowing for food outside. It was a rainy day so I took pity on it and brought him in. Before I allowed it to step inside, I wiped him with a damp cloth to make sure he's free from grime. I knew how cats hate water, so I distracted him with some leftover fish. I brought him inside to play and let it explore its new surroundings. Dad was on holiday in China, so I decided to keep it around until he came back. But things were not meant to be. I didn't want it to run around, so I kept it in the empty room downstairs. I scared it would suffocate inside, so I opened a small gap in the window, confident it wouldn't escape. The next morning, I learned how flexible a cat's body can be. I never saw it again.

Tonight, as I entered the living room, I was shocked to see a ginger orange cat walking about. My instinct immediately tried to shoo the cat out of the house. She did leave, but she walked out slowly, as if she belonged there in the first place and it was her who is annoyed. She definitely had the air of a diva! When she was outside, I was ready to close the door but then she went into Manja mode and then started meowing and meowing. It was raining then as well, and I immediately took pity on her.

I squatted down and beckoned for her to come back in, and guess what? She did! She meowed some more and then when she came in my hands just automatically reached out and strangled massaged her. Cats love having their neck caressed, and this gurrl is just a total affection-sucker! Dad whipped out his camera and took some shots of the feisty feline. I deduced she was hungry by her attempts to bite my finger. I told Dad to get the discarded fish head from the dinner earlier while I kept her company. She upped the ante and started rolling around Bollywood-style while I tickled her belly. One word: Queen!

OMG! Get the camera away from me! Do you know how much I charge per hour? Do you?!?

It was soon time to go. Dad placed the fish head outside. As predicted, she rushed outside and quickly feasted on the reward for her company. I took the chance to close the door on her. It felt sad saying goodbye this way, but it's for the best. I should leave it as a one-night stand; maintaining a long term relationship is just too hard in this case.

You know you want to touch me

17 November 2005

Quest for Mobile Music

The MP3 player is one of the last gadgets that I have yet to acquire, until now. I think it is one of the bare 'wants' (not 'need') of any self-proclaimed geek. I used to get envious when I see people with a new MP3 player. I know I probably don't need it, but it's still a cool thing to have around. The one factor that kept me from buying one was the price. Whenever I see the RM200+ price tag, I immediately snapped out of my daydream and resumed my boring, MP3-less life. That is, until now.

I usually throw away those product catalogues they stuff into my mailbox, but for unknown reasons I took a look at the Tesco catalogue this morning. And to my astonishment, they were offering a 256MB MP3 player for RM99.90! To me, RM100 is the psychological price barrier and I kept praying for MP3 players to become this cheap - and it has. Instantly, the logical side of my brain shrunk to the size of a walnut while the needy-greedy-I-want-more side took control.

Sure, I could donate RM100 to the earthquake victims who are now experiencing the drastic winter.... but an MP3 player is more fun. The best part is it also has a voice recorder so I can make an audio journal instead of writing every thought down while I'm travelling. Trust me, trying to write coherently while in a moving bus can be nerve-wrecking. This feature will definitely come in handy when I go to Singapore next month.

Anyway, after several hours of deliberation (actually, it's 2 minutes to decide and 3 hours to convince the logical brain) I drove down to Tesco. I walked up to the electronics counter and asked to test the MP3 player. The guy said I had to pay for the item first. I was slightly taken aback by this modern-age shopping technique. While this practice is perfectly normal in western countries, it is pretty new here. For decades, Asians will only pay for a product after testing it, not the other way round. But since I'm pretty sure of buying it already, I paid with confidence (plus Tesco has a refund policy). Another interesting thing to note is that the receipt is the 1 year warranty card. What happened to mailing a post card to some weird location?

Anyway, it's now time for testing. I had planned to bring some MP3s on my thumb drive to be loaded into it, but I guessed they already have a testing station that will do that. I guessed wrong. Luckily the manufacturer, M.Walker, was one step ahead and had already preloaded two songs for my listening pleasure. However, they could have done better by including more recent songs instead of The Carpenter's "Yesterday Once More" and Aqua's "Barbie Girl". Well, at least I got to test it.

Unfortunately, I was asked to leave the testing counter after the lady found out that I had already paid for it. So I packed up the items and continued strolling around Tesco. I was getting displeased with the fact that I was pushed aside before I was satisfied with the product's quality. I felt I should be given the chance to fully work the player until the cow comes home. So I came up with two options. I could either:

a) March back to the testing counter and demand my right to continue testing it


b) Save myself the walking trouble and test the MP3 player right there, between the cooking oil and soya sauce aisles

Being the practical person that I am, I chose b). So there I was, in the middle of Tesco, unpacking my MP3 player and wearing it on. And then I practically walked around the large hypermarket, listening to Aqua and the Carpenters over and over and over again. While doing so, I discovered I have never been looked at by so many people in my life. Men, women, and children are drawn to the black thing dangling from my neck. It sure felt good to be noticed! (If even for the wrong reasons)

For a RM99.90 item, its strengths are few but firm, and its weaknesses are many but trivial. It is a fairly full-featured MP3 player with basic equalizer settings. It runs on a single AAA battery so I can replace it easily. It can work as a thumb drive as well. However, the main issues I have with it is that the LCD display does not show the artist and song title, an important item to have. Also, I always preferred MP3 players that use expandable storage like SD cards, but 256MB is no slouch either. And last but not least, I wonder how long those flimsy controls will last.

But even if there's a small buzzing sound when music is played, I can finally bring my kind of music with me instead of being fed unhealthy doses of Britney, Jessica, and Lindsay all the time. And that, my friends, is priceless.

Cheap Whore

Anyway, when I went back to my ex-school yesterday, I was asked to edit a video (among other technology tasks). I duly completed them and passed the completed work to the counselor today. And just as I finished, he said if RM30 is enough as compensation. I stared at him with my mouth open (OK, not really). To be polite, I said that I only need RM3 to cover the costs of the blank CDs I used. But he insisted I take the RM30 and said it was from the school anyway. I had no choice but to take it.

As I was going home I reflected on the RM30. And the more I think of it, the more I come to the conclusion that I'm a cheap whore. That's right - RM30 for so much work? OK, maybe it just took a little over 3 hours, but still! In reality, though, I don't mind doing the work for free.... I do love my old school.

Big, Sad Joke

Whenever I come back for my break, I will surely take some time to visit my alma mater. It is always great to see the positive changes in the school that have taken place since I left. A new academic block, air-conditioned library, and a supportive ex-boy community are some of the things that I missed out on.

Anyway, I went to visit the school counselor this morning (my main liaison with the school). While briefing me on the latest changes in the school he casually mentioned a British Council youth camp thingy in Philippines. I was instantly interested, although I'll need to take 10 days off my studies. It was worth it because these trips are fully sponsored and I've never been to Philippines before.

When I came home I did research on the event. Officially, it is called the Young Global Citizens Project. The camp is all about cultural understanding and leadership training. The application requirements weren't trivial either - I had to write a 500-800 word essay or give a 3-5 minute audio/video presentation. But I reckoned I could do it since I'm no puss when it comes to writing.

I slowly got more excited about the event and I even told Dad about it. I read more about last year's camp and started outlining the contents of my submission essay. That is, until I saw the biggest, most cruel joke of all. Written at the bottom of the page in bold words:

Closing date for application is Monday 7 November 2005 at 12 noon.

I am, like, "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!" Why couldn't I have learned about this earlier? To get my hopes all high and then drop me into a free fall, letting me land head first into the concrete floor. That's just terrible.

15 November 2005

Blog Deluge

There are approximately 70,000 new blogs each day, and it seems that everyone and their cat keeps one nowadays. I'm definitely not a blog veteran, so how can I make my blog stand out from the rest? I seriously don't know, but I suspect it has something to do with writing more constructive posts. Which this post isn't.

Anyway, my favourite comic writer, Scott Adams, has set up his Dilbert blog and it is seriously funny. I keep up with his comics and also his Dilbert books. I went to the bargain section of Popular bookstore today and I was very happy to find Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel, a fairly recent book. It was only RM19.90! It's a sort of blessing that he's not very popular here, or else I'd have to shell out more than RM30 for it. The other Dilbert books that I own are The Joy of Work, and Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook. Both are equally funny and acquainted me with the weird and depressing world of the Cubicle Dweller.

14 November 2005

NFTC: Where Do You Think You Are, Mecca?

May 18 1977
"We are now in the center of downtown L.A. and although the buildings are large and the sidewalks are broad, we find it a tougher neighborhood than Lincoln Heights or Chinatown. The rich people do not want us on their sidewalks and they radiate a kind of depersonalized hatred at seeing two monks being repentant beneath their feet. A well-dressed woman in her forties stamps by, inches from our heads and fingers and shouts through clenched teeth, "Where do you think you are, Mecca? That is disgusting in the United States!" Heng Ch'au isn't talking to people who don't ask sincere questions, but his answer to this woman could have been, "Yes, you're right. And that's just the problem. Until it's no longer disgusting, this country is in trouble.""

Disciple Heng Sure
bows in respect

Best Offer!

How much effort are you willing to put in to get the best price for a particular item? We're not talking about big ticket items like apartments and cars, but small items such as electronic products. Will you go the extra mile (literally) to save RM20? I know Dad won't, but David (roommate) will.

This disparity is obvious when it comes to cameras and electronic items. David will go all the way to Low Yat/Sg. Wang to buy a scanner just to save around RM50, even if it means spending 2 hours travelling, and the tiredness associated with lugging a large 7kg box around town.

Dad, on the other hand, doesn't mind spending an extra RM30 to save himself some trouble. Case in point - I felt it was high time we got a cheap scanner to digitize all the old photos before the termites got to it, so I went to source for Canon LIDE 35, a fairly cheap and fast scanner. In Penang, the offered price was RM335 while in Low Yat it could go down to around RM305. You can guess which one Dad chose.

I guess this is due to the fact that Dad has an income while David does not. But even then, David probably has a stronger 'thrifty' gene. Or perhaps it has more to do with the psychological victory associated with being able to obtain the lowest price. In short, ego. Interestingly though, he doesn't mind spending money on food, especially good food.

This is also in stark contrast to me. I am pretty nonchalant towards the quality and taste of food I eat, and I dislike the idea of expensive food (not the taste, just the price). However, when it comes to spending money on other things, I can have a pretty loose wallet sometimes. Which is all to the detriment of my cash reserves, of course.


A lot of people wonder if I ever rot away in boredom while I'm studying in Sleepy Hollow a.k.a. Nilai? After all, in the town where sundry shops dare label themselves as 'supermarkets', it tends to bring out the village-boy in me.

But if they analyze my blog entries properly, they will realize that in reality, I am rotting away in boredom here in Penang! Just compare the number of posts I wrote this month and last month. More importantly, I'm now mostly writing 'fillers', words with not much siginificance like this post you are reading now. As a result, my readership has taken a hit. Most of my Penang friends are still stuck in uni exams till the end of this week. I am so gonna exploit them when they finish.

13 November 2005


Yesterday, I helped out at a team building event organized by the temple. Halfway through though, one of the participants had to leave because she received news that her father passed away. I didn't know it until later, and after the event Dad and I went to visit her and pay our respects to the departed. We personally know the lady so it was quite a social visit.

But I can't help wondering how I would cope when it is Dad's turn to go. Would I be calm? Would I freak out and faint? As the only child, I am practically clueless as to formal death rites. As of yet, I haven't figured out how I am going to deal with it emotionally, much less ritually. All I know is that it will happen, except in the circumstance that I would die first.

Death seems to be such a morbid topic, but as a Buddhist I understand and accept it is just another stage of one's journey through samsara. For me, it is the ultimate test of letting go, and I'm not so sure I'm prepared for it yet.

Dad has mentioned (more often than I'm comfortable with) that he prefers to pass away peacefully in his sleep, without all the fuss of deteriorating health and spiraling health care costs. He has come to this conclusion many times, especially when seeing his father in the hospital. My grandfather has been in and out of the hospital a lot of times for a bevy of body malfunctions. The most recent one involves the stomach and digestion. Dad renewed his peaceful death vow after seeing him in that sufferable state.

I hope that he, and everyone else, attain that kind of blissful ending.

11 November 2005

An Unusual Rant

I don't usually rant about my personal life. I can rant about toilets, Gillette razors, and the weather but I rarely talk about my life's troubles. Well, today it's gonna be different.

This whole week, especially the past two days, has been frustrating. I feel a little depressed and unwilling to socialize. And a tad rebellious too. So in order to exorcise my demons I'm gonna try and list out all the issues that I have an issue with:

  • Finding out about Joe's brain cancer really saddened me. It increased my urgency towards life, but my actions lately show the contrary, namely:
    • Spending almost two hours at lunch with Dad and his friends. The worst part is that I have nothing much to contribute to the conversation, so it's just the usual pleasantries.

    • I've been wasting a lot of time watching TV shows. I should have been studying and preparing for the programming competition in two weeks time, but I chose entertainment instead.

  • I'm getting SICK of eating meat. Neither parent seem to respect or value my mostly-vegetarian lifestyle. They continue to push meat to me, which I don't appreciate. Maybe it's because I said I'm quite casual about it. But if this goes on, I'm going to have to put my foot down and be a serious full-time vegetarian, no exceptions.

  • A couple of semesters ago I did a software assignment which I was very proud of. But last night I couldn't find them and I freaked out. Some circumstances led me to delete the originals, but I was sure I had made a backup. Unfortunately not. Last night was my low point, but luckily I found an older backup somewhere. I never knew I was so attached to those digital bits and bytes.

  • While doing research for my final year project I discovered someone else had already done most of what I wanted to do. And it was done very well. I wasn't very happy about it because it meant it took off some of the innovative edge my proposed software will have. I now have to refocus my energy towards improving the existing concept.

  • Dad's constant talking, lame jokes, and lack of trust in me is starting to tick me off. I've been spending way too much time with him and I'm starting to feel suffocated. I can barely laugh at his jokes, and also at his conversation attempts. I think he sensed I was depressed and tried to keep me company, but he's making it worse coz it's not working. And lately he has been very doubtful of me, unable to trust me with simple tasks. He may call it 'concern', but I call it 'doubt'.

  • My college clique (David, Albert, Joey, Linda, etc) came to Penang recently but I wasn't told of their visit until the day before. I was naturally pissed at this neglect. Of course, I've been neglecting to join them in college as well so I guess the punishment is fitting. At any rate, I didn't go out with them at all. And nothing hurts more than being neglected by friends you care.

  • A proposed Singapore holiday is in limbo. It was supposed to be a joint holiday with Dad's friend at a company bungalow, but the place wasn't available. Dad suggested we continue with the trip and backpack there instead. That kinda takes the fun out of the trip, because I wouldn't want to backpack with Dad. Last year when we took a 19 hour train ride to Bangkok, I almost chewed my ears off having to sit opposite to Dad. And since backpacking is all about staying together, I can envision it getting even more frustrating. However, Dad plans to backpack with me to some faraway country next year. So I better use this Singapore experience to gauge if he's a suitable travelling partner. If not, I'd rather not have the free European tour.

Well, I certainly feel better now that I have expressed my issues. I apologize if you had to put up with my incoherent ramblings for the past few days. Your scheduled entertainment will resume as normal next week.

10 November 2005

Last Days of School

There's nothing quite like the last days of the school term. Unfailingly, the last week of school for the year is the most anticipated time for all students. Even now that I'm in college, knowing that I am 7 days away from the end of the semester gives me a tingling sensation (not the erotic kind, mind you). But nothing beats those carefree days in secondary school.

Usually the teachers stop teaching and we can more or less do whatever we want. If the weather is not too hot, most of the guys will be out playing football and basketball. Me? I'm not the athletic type so I would gossip and talk the day away. The only time we didn't do all that was in Form 5, cause our SPM was just too darn close!

FYI, I've been really unproductive these past few days. I feel a little ashamed of myself - here I am, with the perfect opportunity to upgrade my technical skills, and what do I do? Play Bejeweled 2, watch the final episode of Sex & The City, and read all sorts of blogs! Certainly not very productive... :(

09 November 2005


There are two types of people I know that will definitely go to Hell when they are six feet under. One are printer manufacturers and the other are razor manufacturers. Though selling different items, they have a simple strategy - give the product away and make money on the consumables.

Printer manufacturers commit the greatest sin. After all, their inks cost more per liter than any other liquid in this world, be it Perrier, Shell V-Power, or pure freshly squeezed orange juice. But I would like to focus my rant on the pioneers of this business model - the razor companies.

I wonder who was the genius who thought up this idea. But regardless, it has established companies like Gilette and Schick as the big weasels of the world. Razor cartridges cost so much! I use a Gilette Sensor Excel and when I was shopping I was shocked at the ever increasing prices. The cheapest cartridges are for Gilette Vector, their entry level model.

I was tempted to change my razor to Vector and stick with the cheapest items, when my eyes laid upon an even cheaper way - disposable razors. In the past, they were notorious for being uncomfortable and useless. But technology has come a long way and there are now disposables with three blades! Watson's disposable razors were only RM4.90 for a pack of 6, so I bought those. The handles are longer and it has a lubricating strip so it is almost comparable to the expensive ones.

I used one this morning, and although it did not provide as close a shave as Gilette, it glides effortlessly and is good enough for my daily stubble. At least it won't cost me a fortune to buy them.

08 November 2005

Paternal Instinct

I had another weird dream last night, which I felt represented a repressed need in my life. I dreamt that two of my friends, Alvin and Jay, adopted a baby. Alvin and Jay are room mates, so I can see why I would visualize them as "parents". But the strange part wasn't that two male teens adopted a baby, but how jealous/resentful I felt.

I vaguely remembered not being too happy with A&J for having the child. I think I always wanted to have their kid around me (although he isn't mine) and was upset when he wasn't. Those are the main parts of the dream that I remember, and the more I think about it, the more I feel terrified by its symbolism.

I never felt I have a great paternal instinct. I like kids when they are not whiny/screaming/crying/uncooperative. I can be a good brotherly figure and play with the young 'uns. But I never really imagined myself in the role of a dad, taking care of a child's every need. And yet, in the dream I exhibited such behaviour. Or maybe it's just an extension of my natural tendency to care for others. But I think that's just blowing my own trumpet too much, so I'm gonna stick with the 'paternal instinct' explanation.

07 November 2005

Homeless Cats Also Need Love

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Mouth ulcers are such a pain in the butt, except it's very much in the mouth. I'm having a nasty one right now. It's been stressing me out for about 3 days already. This one is particularly nasty because it is at the side of my tongue, and it will scrape against my teeth everytime I move it. And oh, the hellish sensation it sends through my body is just unforgivable.

My doctor told me a long time ago that once I start having ulcers, the condition will stay with me forever. Something about the virus hitchhiking in my mouth for the rest of eternity. I don't blame them - a moist and fleshy mouth is a good place to live. (Is it just me or did that last sentence come out seriously salah?)

Anyhoo, the good doctor gave me some steroid cream (Kanolone) to apply. I gotta say it works wonders but due to its strange cream texture, applying Kanolone is akin to diffusing bombs. If you don't do it right the first time, it's gonna be hell to try and repair it. Due to its sticky nature, you must dab it on the right spot. If you missed and tried to spread it over, the cream will stick to your fingers! It will never go back onto the ulcer and you'll have to wash it off and try again.

In other news, my life has been very boring lately. It has been so boring that I had to write about mouth ulcers in my blog! I'm supposed to do some serious studying in preparation for my programming competition and final year project but so far.... nothing.

06 November 2005

Tai Chi Master

Introducing to you, the grand master of all tai chi proponents, George W. Bush!

He is especially skilled in the modern art of Crouching Answer, Hidden Agenda. Take this excellent move from the Master, for example (excerpt from the President's remarks):

Hi, Mr. President. Thank you. Did Karl Rove tell you the truth about his role in the CIA leak case? And do you owe the American people an apology for your administration's assertations that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby weren't involved?

We're going through a very serious investigation. And I will -- have told you before that I'm not going to discuss the investigation until it's completed. And we have got a -- my obligation is to set an agenda, and I've done that. And the agenda is fighting and winning the war on terror, and keeping the economic vitality and growth alive, dealing with the energy problem, nominating people to the Supreme Court that adhere to the philosophy that I can depend on -- Judge Alito being such a person. I noticed today that they've got a date. I'm disappointed in the date, but happy they do have a firm date for his confirmation hearing. We've got to recover from the hurricanes. So I've got a lot to do, and will continue to focus on the people's business.

If this was an English comprehension test and I were to ask you, "What were the President's comments on the question asked?", would you be able to find the answer?

05 November 2005

NFTC: Lincoln Heights Baddies

Note: I was told of an online version of this book. If you have the time you should go and read the entire book.

May 14, 1977
"We bowed through a tough neighborhood called Lincoln Heights. We reached the front of Lincoln High School just as classes finished. We were immediately surrounded by forty or fifty jeering, shouting, swearing rowdies. When they saw their words couldn't move us, they began to bow along behind us, until we had fourteen bows in line bowing to the Avatamsaka Sutra. They all grew more respectful after about six bows - the toughest ones couldn't keep it up - and they went away, silent and sober. No more trouble that day."


"Friday morning as we neared the end of Lincoln Heights at 10:15 I sensed something up ahead, but I have taken my glasses off and have glued my eyes to my nose for the rest of the journey, so I don't see many details on the road. Heng Ch'au told me later what he saw. A gang of five older men gathered at a taco stand on the corner. One of them was a real demon - ugly, with a misshapen body like a pear. He was jumping around and pointing at us and in his hand he carried a five-foot, sharpened, twisted metal whip. He moved a trash can in front of our path to block the walk and he began to beat it with his whip, making a great noise and denting the sides of the can, all the time pointing at us and trying to provoke his buddies into a similar rage. Heng Ch'au says he was a genuine, big-league baddie, beyond the reach of reason or words. As I bowed along I didn't see any of this, but suddenly I had the strong feeling of invisible aid, a wonderfully good, powerful presence. I had a great feeling of calmness and light.

Heng Ch'au says that as I bowed right into the middle of the group at the taco stand, the leader suddenly went out like a light. He lost his anger and he grew very obedient, like a small child. The others sat motionless at their tables as I bowed around the garbage can below their feet and walked on across the street to bow on the other side. A young, clean man stepped out of his doorway and asked politely, "Can you tell me about your religion, please? I'm very impressed by what you are doing…" and Heng Ch'au told him briefly what the trip was for. He explained quite well. "

Disciple Heng Sure,
bows in respect.

Some People Get It Bad

As I grow up I discover the suffering that the people I know go through. Especially in the last 2 years, I've had a couple of friends who lost one of their parents. But this post is on a particular person I know - Joe.

I knew Joe from college. We met in our first year but I never really got close to him. He was a little odd, spoke mostly Chinese, and didn't speak very good English. So naturally he wasn't in my clique because I spoke mostly English, and didn't speak very good Mandarin. But we maintained a professional relationship, if you can call it that.

Then in the middle of last year, I transferred to the main campus. Joe was one of the Penangites to come along too, and incidentally, we chose the same major. Basically he was the only person I knew on the first day of lectures. So I had no choice but to befriend him.

It's not like I'm an anti-social person but we just didn't 'click' at the beginning. And I'm naturally friendly and polite if I needed to, and that's how I approached Joe. At any rate I began to find out about his personality. He's one of those weird geeks who are destined to live a lonely life without a girlfriend, working his life away. Unfortunately, fate has other plans for him.

Late last year he began developing health complications. He ate some spicy curry for dinner, and by 9pm, he lost his voice. It was totally barren and he could only squeak out some words. I quickly took him to the doctor, but he only prescribed some antibiotics and antiseptic mouth wash.

The semester ended, and when I saw him again early this year, his voice barely recovered. It sounded very deep and husky, and it was indeed a worrying trend. He's been to a few specialists with not much result. And as the semester went on, other throat problems arose. Bad sorethroats were the order of the day and I really pitied him. It got so serious that he had to fly back to Penang to check again.

And that's when the results came in - he had cancer. More specifically, lymphoma near his lungs. That could explain why his throat and respiratory health has been terrible. He stopped college and underwent chemotherapy treatment. My whole class was shocked when I told them the news, and it certainly wasn't easy for me to be the messenger.

Whenever I went back during breaks I would visit him occassionally. Sometimes I needed a little 'reminder' from him. But basically I just went there to listen to him. His weird mannerisms ensured he had very few friends, and I wouldn't claim to be a friend of his. But I went out of compassion and empathy of his need for friends. It sure wasn't easy staying in the hospital so often for almost a year.

Yes, that's how long it has been. Joe finished his last chemotherapy treatment a couple of months back and I'm just as relieved that he will soon be back on his feet. He already started planning to continue college and I helped him enquire about some admin matters.

That was about a month ago. And then last night he called me again. I haven't chatted with him for quite some time so I really wanted to know what's been going on. And I was left speechless once again when he told me the cancer cells went to his brain. "Brain cancer?" I said to myself. Hasn't he gone through enough bad luck?

I visited him this afternoon. He looked perky and was his talkative self. But he is about to commence on a 3 month treatment cost, and it definitely won't come cheap. He's not below the poverty line, so getting financial aid has been impossible. I know how slim the chances of brain cancer recovery is, and I pray that he will pull through after all he experienced. Thinking of him makes me mellow and reminds me of the fragility of life. It further reminds me that I better work on escaping samsara before my bad karma catches up on me.

Basically, that's the story of Joe. I really, really hope that this is not the end of his story but the beginning of a new chapter. Not a bed of roses, but sometimes it's better to have the thorns than to have nothing at all.

03 November 2005


I'm so traumatised right now I can hardly write coherently. My house is infested with termites and I helped Dad clean out one of their major hubs - the TV rack. Our hard wood TV rack in the living room is literally eaten inside out. Not a single drawer has been spared and Dad has decided today was the day we exterminate them.

Of course, we both know termite colonies don't just exist in one place. They are in the floorboards along the wall, and probably in some parts of the parquet flooring upstairs. I suggested we consult professional exterminators, but in his professional opinion as someone in the housing industry, it wouldn't help much. And those professionals sure don't come cheap.

Anyway, we had to remove the whole cabinet outside. The top has been weakened so we could not lift it - we had to push it out. Once we brought it out we started removing the items inside. That's when the carnage started. Armed with our weapons of mass destruction (Fumakilla H20 aerosol insecticide), we sprayed those ugly worker termites. I felt pretty disgusted - having to kill thousands of insects - but I knew I had no other choice. It was kill or have all our wooden furniture be eaten.

We started this morning at 9-ish and didn't finish clearing the mess up until now. I'm not sure where else the termites have occupied, but I don't really wanna know for now. I can only hope my karmic retribution for today's massacre will pass over quickly. And after seeing how much trouble a few million termites can cause me, I vow to use mostly steel furniture in my future home. Sure, it's probably bad feng shui, but having your wooden furniture destroyed ain't exactly great feng shui either.

Here's a couple of photos showing the destruction:

Introducing my revamped and updated living room:

02 November 2005

I'd Redo Form Six

I had a peculiar dream last night. I dreamt I went to Form Six, which was something I didn't do due to several reasons. First, it will take way too long - when my peers are just finishing their first year of university, I'd already have an Honours Degree. Second, I might not get the course I want - say, Forest Management instead of Computer Science?

But after the dream, I could not help but wonder if I would have enjoyed Form 6. I think I would. When I left school in 2002, I had already established a reputation as a trustworthy and responsible senior (bah!), which most teachers took advantage of to do menial work. In fact, I'm still the webmaster for the school website that I rarely update.

The fact is, I would have been further exploited had I returned to Form Six, but that isn't necessarily something bad. I loved serving the school and I would have thoroughly enjoyed Form 6 but I doubt I would do very well in my studies. The science subjects just aren't my strong suit. I still have a mortal fear of Chemistry and I never knew how I got an A for Physics.

The verdict? If to experience Form 6 for the social aspect, then Yes. If to do well in my studies, then a very big freaking No.

01 November 2005

Allow Me to be Frank

Seen in The Star Online (DPM: mStar Online can help national unity efforts):

"Efforts to mould a Bangsa Malaysia will be successful if programmes aimed at nation-building are adopted wholeheartedly, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Monday."

I would like to suggest changing the sentence to read, "Efforts to mould a Bangsa Malaysia will be successful if the people are no longer differentiated by whether they are Malay, Chinese, Indian, or otherwise. It is neither important nor a vital data to be collected in official records."

I rest my case.

P.S.: Happy Deepavali/Divali to all fellow Indians!