30 December 2005

Most Stupid Thing I Have Ever Done

I thought that the most stupid thing that I did was to drench my car boot in battery acid, but I was wrong. I outdid myself today, in ways I am so ashamed to tell here. But I will.

So I drove back to Sleepy Hollow (a.k.a. Nilai) today with Albert and Sovatha (my Cambodian friend) and after I enrolled in my course, I checked into my room. I brought up a few valuable items and decided to leave the rest until I got the floor cleaned.

Halfway through cleaning my room, I decided to bring the other luggages up. But strangely, I couldn't find my car keys. I looked up, down, everywhere. I panicked a little but I kept calm, thinking that the key is either with Albert or locked in the car. I wouldn't even give rise to the thought that someone stole the key. I looked out my window and was relieved to see that my car was still parked.

I looked around some more for 5 seconds, and after that I wasted no time to go down to my car. And to my shock, I found my car keys dangling from the car door.

My car keys.

Dangling from the car door.

In public.

For 30 minutes.

If I were more stupid I would have slapped myself, but I am thankful that everything is still inside. But I am still feeling a little disappointed at my slip-up. Luckily there weren't many people around yet. Or worse - if I had left the key there overnight. If I had left the key in the ignition, people might not notice it, but it's dangling right there in the open.

I can get straight A's, but I can't take good care of my property.

I feel shitty.

28 December 2005

The Singapore Journals

I know you are not really interested, but I'm shoving it down your throat anyway. 3 weeks ago, Dad and I went to Singapore. I usually keep a jounal of my travels, but this time I decided to go high-tech. I used my MP3 Player to record my opinions instead of writing them down. I soon found out that they are two entirely different things. So you'll hear of me getting stuck, saying bloopers, and sounding raw. That's right - this is me, unedited. When I write, I can just delete anything that doesn't sound good, but I have barely touched these recordings. It's the perfect chance for you, the reader, to get a glimpse into the real me.

Now, I gotta warn you that my actual personality can be rather dry, so I advise against downloading everything here. Read the synopsis and download those that you find remotely interesting. Along with the synopsis, I include the date and time of the post, as well as the length (minutes:seconds) and approximate file size in kilobytes. You'll find that some of the numbers skip - that's because I sometimes press the record button accidentally.

I also understand that some of you have better things to do with your time, such as paying bills and using the Internet for porn. So if you would like to listen only to the Best 3 posts, I recommend #17, #38, and #39.

Before you start, help me out by visiting my secondary school's website. Just click on the link and leave when the page loads. They have graciously allowed to host my audio files temporarily without charge. Actually, I'm the webmaster so I gave myself permission. :) At any rate, just help me boost up the hit counter as a sign of gratitude. Thanks!

(UPDATE 9/8/06: The audio files have been removed. Consequently I do not have a backup copy of this. But don't worry, I doubt you'll miss anything :P)

01: 7 Dec, 10.16pm (3:03 min) (719kb)
Introduction to the trip, recorded at the Penang bus station, talking about our travel partners Mr. C and my plans for the audio blog

02: 8 Dec, 1.40am (1:03 min) (250kb)
Toilet break at the petrol station. Talks about sleeping in the bus.

03: 8 Dec, 5.35am (2:22 min) (556kb)
Deja vu of my previous trip to Singapore, 8 years ago. Complains about my discomfort.

04: 8 Dec, 7.07am (1:11 min) (281kb)
At Johor Bahru bus station, getting on our way to immigration. Complains again about my sleep. Gave thoughts on Johor Bahru.

05: 8 Dec, 8.00am (1:59 min) (466kb)
Compares and contrast both government's immigration centre.

06: 8 Dec, 9.44am (1:27 min) (343kb)
As we couldn't check in yet to the Hostel, we had some breakfast and decided to walk around first. First impressions on surrounding areas.

08: 8 Dec, 11.20am (4:00 min) (938kb)
Describes the room which I will be sleeping in for the next 4 days, and talks about my main purpose in Singapore.

10: 8 Dec, 12.48pm (0:40 min) (159kb)
Describes the sights at Bencoolen Link and my lunch.

11: 8 Dec, 2.02pm (1:28 min) (347kb)
Describes the sights at Serangoon Road, along the way to Mustafa Centre.

12: 8 Dec, 2.55pm (1:01 min) (242kb)
Expressed my disappointment at Mustafa Centre.

13: 8 Dec, 2.15pm (1:45 min) (413kb)
Talks about the taxi ride back to the Hostel.

14: 8 Dec, 6.50m (2:30 min) (590kb)
Describes the Merlion Park, the Durian, and Japanese businessmen. Also on difficulties in framing photos.

16: 8 Dec, 8.44pm (2:21 min) (553kb)
Expressed my disappointment at the largest fountain in the world and my contentment with dinner.

17: 8 Dec, 9.34pm (4:40 min) (1095kb)
Back at the Hostel, I rant about the tiring day and my plans for tomorrow. Also a brief summary of the entire day.

18: 9 Dec, 7.20am (1:52 min) (441kb)
Early morning rant about sleeping in my window-less room.

19: 9 Dec, 8.30am (2:12 min) (520kb)
Describes a conversation I had with an Englishman over breakfast.

20: 9 Dec, 9.30am (0:52 min) (205kb)
The sudden rain threatens to spoil our Sentosa plan.

21: 9 Dec, 10.24am (0:57 min) (226kb)
Talks about the change of plans regarding the afternoon. Some rants about having to rant via audio.

22: 9 Dec, 11.25am (2:02 min) (478kb)
How do you pronounce "Outram"? Talks about Singapore's MRT system.

23: 9 Dec, 12.49pm (1:44 min) (411kb)
A noisy time outside Singapore Science Centre's toilet, being surrounded by those darned children.

24: 9 Dec, 3.40pm (2:00 min) (470kb)
Thoughts about the Science Centre and the kiasu edge.

25: 9 Dec, 3.50pm (1:04 min) (253kb)
I was mistaken as a local.

26: 9 Dec, 7.26pm (1:55 min) (452kb)
My amazement at the number of people on Orchard Road. My further amazement at my inability to buy any clothes.

27: 9 Dec, 8.55pm (3:52 min) (910kb)
How do you pronounce "Heeren"? Further rants on the expensive prices here, and how difficult it is to find dinner.

29: 9 Dec, 10.58pm (3:31 min) (828kb)
The tagline for this trip should be "A place I haven't come in years, and a place I will not come in years"

30: 10 Dec, 8.35am (1:36 min) (376kb)
Reviews plans for the day, and reflects on the photographs I have taken.

34: 10 Dec, 12.07pm (2:30 min) (589kb)
At Peninsula Plaza while Dad buys some camera accessories. And how to get a cup of Starbucks coffee for $0.40.

35: 10 Dec, 1.54pm (1:27 min) (342kb)
Posting from Sim Lim Square, the so-called IT heaven. So-called.

36: 10 Dec, 4.36pm (1:35 min) (374kb)
Nothing to do in Sentosa! More weather irony.

37: 10 Dec, 6.03pm (2:18 min) (543kb)
Stranded at Sentosa while Dad 'enjoys' Underwater World.

38: 10 Dec, 10.10pm (4.24 min) (1036kb)
Finally back at the Hostel, but nothing much to say except more complaints about the trip. Plus, what was the most memorable moment of this trip?

39: 11 Dec, 8.12am (4:12 min) (989kb)
The last day of the trip! You can hear the renewed vigour in my voice. And I talk a lot about why I don't want to backpack with Dad again.

40: 11 Dec, 11.53am (1:59 min) (467kb)
Legally back on Malaysian soil. And a review of Jet Li's English movies.

41: 11 Dec, 5.05pm (2:36 min) (614kb)
At Puduraya in transit. Talks about the terrible bus driver from SG-KUL.

42: 11 Dec, 9.24pm (1:33 min) (365kb)
Back at the Penang bus station, and what I did for the KL-PG journey.

27 December 2005

People of Singapore Part 18 & 19

Another double bonanza to make up for (soon to be) lost time:

A fisherman steers his boat towards Clifford Pier. This is indeed a rare sight in industrialized countries. Indeed, this was taken quite early in the morning.

An old man with a very hunched back pushing a trolley in Chinatown. People barely offer him a look of sympathy as he slowly wheels the merchandise across a road. I am reminded that Singapore has the fastest growing elderly population in the world, which explains the government's efforts to encourage child bearing.

Zemien Tour Services

The next few days promise to be exciting: Sovatha, the Cambodian I met in Bangkok last year has come to Malaysia for a holiday. And tomorrow (Wed), he's taking a bus up to Penang to meet me. He will be sleeping over at my place, and I'll be a tour guide for two days. I've never done this tour guide task seriously, so now it's time to prove myself as a worthy son of Penang.

I find this thing hard because, as I have wrote before, locals rarely go to tourist areas. So what I'm doing is checking up travel guides on the Internet and see what foreigners recommend for Penang. Isn't that ironic? Me as a local having to rely on some foreigner's recommendation? But I have no choice, so wish me luck.

I will also be leaving for college on the 30th, and Sovatha will be following me back. Due to my packed schedule, expect no extensive updates. So to keep you company, I will finally be posting up my audio journals from Singapore tomorrow. Feel free to download one, or download all.

People of Singapore Part 16 & 17

A double bonanza for you today:

A DJ showing off his skills along Orchard Road. Looks more like local talent, as there were no crowds of people dancing around. But then again, it is in a public area. And he was nice enough to continue doing his stuff while I took a snapshot, so I'm grateful. Of course, Singapore is home to Zouk, one of Asia's most highly rated nightspots.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it - shoppers queueing up to enter the Gucci boutique! Consumerism in Singapore is very high, and so is their fashion sense. I thought these things only happened in Western countries, but apparently people here starve for fashion as well.

I Can't Be A Maid

The past two days have been boring. Dad & I spent our mornings cleaning the house. Because I'll only be back from college on Chinese New Year Eve, we had to bring forward our annual spring cleaning. We've been doing this for years and we have pretty much a set routine - I'll do the windows while he jet-cleans the porch. I'll remove the lizard droppings in the guest room while he removes the cobwebs. You pretty much get the idea.

While I don't complain much, those are very mind-numbing tasks. Anything that doesn't really challenge my mind tends to make me drowsy. That's why I realize I better get a good job because frankly, I can't be a janitor.

26 December 2005

Pen Pals

Have you ever had a pen pal? For those of you too young to know, a pen pal is someone you befriend with through the mail. That's right, snail mail. Your entire friendship is built and maintained via letters and postcards you take turns sending. Depending on the postman's mood, a letter can take weeks or even months to arrive, especially if your pen pal is halfway across the globe.

In this age of e-mail and MSN Messenger, you might think, "Why the hell would I want to wait so long for a reply? I'll just send an IM!" True, and that's why the practice of pen pal-ing is long dead. But in the Dark Ages, before the widespread adoption of the World Wide Web, pen pal-ing is the way to know friends from different places. And it is such an allure, don't you agree? Imagine telling your friends that you know someone from the U.S.A. or U.S.S.R.!

And for the moment you've been waiting for: yes, I am old enough to have dabbled in pen pal-ing. But I only have one real pen pal, and I kept all his letters. I don't remember any others I have mailed to, but somehow I treasured this guy's letters and I still have them today.

Judging from his first letter, it was him who initiated contact. I posted my bio on the Sunday Mail, a tabloid-style newspaper. In the past they had a pen pals column listing your name, age, hobbies, and address. (Ahhh.... revealing your address to strangers - those were the good old days)

Anyway, our friendship only lasted 4 letters, 1 postcard, and 4 months. Which was kinda strange considering how great our correspondence were! He somehow stopped mailing me, or perhaps it was I who stopped sending him detailed proof of how bad his grammar was (yes, I did that even when I was 11). But I kinda missed him, and I kept his letters really well.

A few years ago, I tried to reestablish contact. I sent a letter to him but never got a reply. I wonder if he moved away, or worse, died. When I cleared my room today, I came across his letters again. Curiosity overcame me and I decided it's time to put technology to good use. I scanned all his letters in and also his photo and I display them for you to see. I have blurred his address to protect his privacy, but he stays around Taman Seri Andalas, Klang. His name is Nah Swee Wayne, and he's born in 1986.

If you know him, or are him, please leave a comment. I'd really like to track him down for the sake of catching up. Feel free to read the letters to find out more about him. I promise I won't cry if I ever meet him, like those TV shows where they reunite long-lost family members. Really.

If you are there, Swee Wayne, I missed you.

25 December 2005

Everybody Benefits

Today, Dad bought me a low-end scanner (Canon LiDE 25) for RM255. To show my gratitude, I paid for the Pizza Hut dinner at only RM35.

Now that is what I call a win-win situation.

People of Singapore Part 15

Christmas carollers sing on stage at an Orchard Road shopping mall. There are so many malls that I've forgotten which one. Anyway, they also sang acapella but the lead vocalist wasn't very good. This is partly due to the technical people.

24 December 2005

Speak My Mind

Recently I listened to Beyonce Knowles' latest solo effort "Speak My Mind". I think it is a good album, and I like it better than the first album. I didn't really listen to her first in full, but her singles sounded, erm, noisy. Totally not my style.

Her first single from this album, "Check It Out", sounded noisy too and it gets quite annoying at the end. I didn't really like it when I initially heard it on radio, but it grew on me and now I'm enjoying the entire album. There are many excellent slower tracks on the album, and the best way to describe it is- "A good Destiny's Child album that never was".

However, her cover version of the swing classic "Fever" is terrible. Michael Buble's version is still the best. Other than that, they are all fun tracks to listen until the next big hit.

Christmas Delights

I don't usually celebrate Christmas, and the main reason is of course I'm not Christian. But I was invited by my friend Angeline to join a Christmas potluck organized by the Penang International Church, a church made up of mostly expatriates and foreign missionaries. As I mentioned in my previous post, I made salad.

Anyway, we arrived at the Dalat International School on time and joined in the service. It was quite boring with the same old hymn sing-alongs and performances by adorable kids. Bless the pastor for not preaching during the service. And the best part of it was the candle lighting. We were each given a tealight candle, and we passed the light around. And the greatest thing of all is that we could keep the tealight candle holder! It is a pretty simple plastic design, but they seem Ikea-ish, so it is kinda like my first Christmas present.

On to the food. I shouldn't have bothered with my salad, coz it could not match most of the delicacies there. Next to the turkey, gingerbread man, and sour cream, people also brought local food like curry puffs and satay. It was nice to finally taste real sour cream, not the fake Pringles variety. And the drinks were fantastic as well - there was apple cider and eggnog. EGGNOG! I've seen it on American TV all the time, but this was my first sip of the famous Christmas beverage. I gotta say it was nothing I imagined it would be. It was not as egg-y as I thought, and there was no alcohol in it (I think rum is supposed to be an ingredient).

We left at almost 11pm, and I'm glad I went. It was really nice to be able to try out some authentic Christmas food, but I'm a little paiseh about my lame salad.

23 December 2005

Don't Try This at Work

I have a Christmas potluck to attend tonight, so I decided to make some salad. It's easy, and is generally welcomed by everyone. But I wanted to improve on it, so I did a search on 'tossing salad'. I am shocked at the top result.

People of Singapore Part 14

Helpers from the Salvation Army stand outside Tangs department store along Orchard Road. They ring the bell and encourage people to donate to the charity. There were many others around Singapore, but this I noticed that this girl can ring the bell exceptionally well. While other bells sound distracting and downright annoying, she managed to make a sweet melody.

I donated 40 cents and got a pocket calender with a free Starbucks coffee coupon. I threw away the calender and kept the coupon.

Magnificent Evening

So for dinner, Dad took me out to Northam Beach Cafe (again). Joining in was Mr. C, Dad's very good friend, and EN, another of Dad's friend. EN had no idea the dinner was for my birthday until she met us, and she was chiding Dad for not telling her. I wanted as much as Dad to keep this low profile, so it was good that she didn't bring any presents.

When Mr. C arrived, he carried two boxes - a present and cake! I'm totally ecstatic in a very subdued manner. This was my third present (first was Mum's wallet and second was Dad's ang pow) and it was a Daniel Hechter t-shirt. Mr. C jokingly asked me to wear it on when I'm cutting the cake, but I took him seriously. I went into the toilet and changed into the t-shirt. It was slightly large, but comfortable.

And the cake! The cake! I haven't had a real birthday cake for 6 or 7 years! I thought this would be another cake-less year, so I actually went to the nearest cake house to get a slice of Mango Cheesecake. But I'm so glad I was mistaken - as the cake was nice. It was just a simple blueberry vanilla cake, but it nice that Mr. C thought of it. I also took the opportunity to lay on the guilt on Dad for not getting a cake all those years, but to his credit he did suggest the cake this time.

You can see me wearing the DH t-shirt posing with the cake below. After dinner, we adjourned to a club house to celebrate it. I even got a song!


It was a great evening. Not great in the sense that I had all my closest friends and family with me, but great in the sense that it's been so long since I had anything remotely like it.

22 December 2005

Last Resort

Dad is a terrible gift-giver, much like me. Although I have vastly improved over the years, he is still stuck in the Middle Ages. This morning, after wishing me Happy Birthday, he left the room and came back with a red packet for me. I was like, "Now that is traditional."

I'm not going to ask him, but I suspect he left the room just to slot in RM100 in the red packet as a quick gift. It is utterly the most unoriginal present I have ever received, but cash is always good. It is definitely better than getting recycled gifts, and I suspect I've been the recipient of several...

People of Singapore Part 13

A young salesman promoting the StarHub broadband Internet package to a potential customer on Orchard Road. I see several of these makeshift promotions around town.

Singapore's broadband penetration rate is almost 50%, a sharp increase from the 7% just two years ago that got the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore all worried.

Birthday Wishes

Since I have a medical condition called Cant-remember-birthdays-itis, I am always very thankful when others wish me on my birthday. So here's just a list of people who wished me today (updated as necessary):

  1. Cj

  2. Eddy

  3. Albert

  4. Dad

  5. LB

  6. HK

  7. Caline

  8. Jastin

  9. Alex

  10. Aigini

  11. HB

  12. Fairuz

  13. EN

  14. Mr. C

  15. HW

The Season to be Grateful

Around this time of the year, I will usually rant about WHY OH WHY I don't get any birthday presents or have birthday parties. Well, this year I decided to change my approach towards birthdays. Although your birthday is the only day you can be legally selfish, I chose to be a little more selfless on my birthday.

Instead of expecting lavish dinners and expensive cakes, I'll make it a small celebration. On Tuesday night I had dinner with Mum at Northam Beach, a beachside food court. And I'll be back there again tomorrow night with Dad and another family friend, Mr. C. It's nice because you have the cool sea breeze on your face while you enjoy slightly more expensive food.

Anyway, to commemorate my 20th birthday (gasp!) I will be donating RM20 to a charitable organization tomorrow. I aim to make this a yearly practice, so I'll be donating RM21 next year. Which is just as well, because by my 60th birthday, RM60 will only be worth RM20 today. Inflation is good.

RM20 is not much, but when you compare it with the amount I donated last year (RM0), it's an infinite increase in good karma! (It's infinite because you can't multiply 0 with any number to get 20, really)

By the way, I would like to take the opportunity to thank my friends Jason, Alain, Patrick, Fa, and Jackson for being the first few people to wish me on my b-day.

And plainly for reflective purposes, here is a list of notable events in my life during my 19th year:
  • Fell in and out of love within one month. At the same time realizing that I'm a sucker for love.... so I've learnt to be less gullible.

  • Decided to become a "casual vegetarian"... and contemplating the idea of adopting a more "serious approach.

  • Started this blog in May... and I've not stopped writing since.

  • Soaked my car boot in battery acid.... therefore getting my vote as Favourite Mistake of the Year

  • Went backpacking with Dad to Singapore... and I've learnt that he's not a good travel partner (you'll get to hear all about it when I post up my Singapore audio journals)

  • Did not have serious tonsilitis during the second half of the year... so I've successfully avoided antibiotics for almost 5 months now.

  • Exterminated lots of termites around the house... which is making me miserable.
It's a pretty uneventful year - I did not save the world or prevent global warming but as they say, "No news is good news". And with that, a very Happy Birthday to Me. You did well, Zemien.

21 December 2005

Spoilers Ahead

I hate spoilers, no kidding. This is especially true for shows that I love. There's nothing more upsetting than having someone spoil the ending or reveal an important piece of the puzzle before I have watched it. Recently, my friend C revealed the ending of The Apprentice Season 4. I have not finished watched it, so I was annoyed when he told me who won. I love the show, and I love trying to find out who will become Mr. Trump's new recruit. Having that surprise spoiled was a major bummer, but it was a good season finale nonetheless.

However, while I watching the last task I was also surprised at one of the candidate's behaviour. This is where I show myself to be a hypocrite and introduce a spoiler myself. If you do not wish to know the ending of The Apprentice Season 4, please do NOT read the rest of this post.

Anyway, I was surprised that Rendal did not have a Plan B in the event of rain. Did he not watch any of the previous seasons? In almost every outdoor task there is the risk of rain, and when you are talking about the Final Task how can you make such assumptions? Worse, he was extremely confident when asked about the weather. Cocky, I might say.

As for Rebecca, I really liked her but she made a fatal mistake of focusing too much on Yahoo! instead of the charity. It was the leverage, I feel, that pushed Mr. Trump to choose Rendal instead of her.

Needless to say, I am disappointed that Rendal was selfish. He had the chance to make Rebecca an Apprentice too, but he defended his victory by saying that "this is the Apprentice, not the Apprenti" (referring to a plural form).

It was a good season, and now it's on to Apprentice Martha Stewart.

People of Singapore Part 12

A mother strolling her two babies (twins?) along Orchard Road. This is increasingly becoming a rare sight as Singapore's birth rate has decreased from 12.78 births/1,000 population in 2002 to 9.49 births/1000 population in 2005.

In an attempt to boost the birth rate, the Singapore government has spent S$800 million on providing incentives to new parents, such as 3-month paid maternity leaves, Baby Bonuses, and tax breaks. This is mainly to reverse the effect of the "Stop at Two" campaign introduced in the 1970s to curb birth rates.

Fitness Studio

The last time I came back in August, I attended a charity concert organized by the Penang Adventist Hospital. As part of the welcome gift, we each received a complimentary guest pass to the Fitness Studio gym. Dad and I had one, and somehow or other I received another one. So I had 3 passes that I was raring to use but didn't have the opportunity until today.

I recently reviewed Celebrity Fitness at Gurney Plaza, so it was a good time to compare and contrast. Firstly, most of the workout machines from Life Fitness are the same and they are indeed wonderful feats of engineering. It's amazing to me how a collection of metal bars, axels, and pulleys can exercise a particular muscle group. They are definitely better than those equipment found in public gyms. It was great fun trying out all the various equipment and working out my entire body, but if I learnt anything, it was that I am extremely weak. While my friend Alain was pushing 45kg weights, I struggled between 15 and 25kg which is quite a shame because it's not like I have a small figure.

We stayed at the gym from 10.30 to 2.30, but it wasn't 4 hours of exercise - it was an hour of exercise and 3 hours of having free drinks. Their member lounge offers complimentary drinks like hot coffee, Milo, tea, and a range of carbonated drinks (Coke, Sprite, etc). It was definitely fun drinking them and chatting, so we alternated between drinks and exercise.

My main purpose there, however, was to join one of their popular aerobics classes like BodyJam and BodyCombat. I've heard so much about them that I wanted to try it out. Unfortunately, they do not have classes between 11am and 5pm so it's a real shame. But I managed to get a copy of their roster so I'll return some other time to try it out (the Guest Pass allows 3 visits).

Now, let's compare Fitness Studio with Celebrity Fitness. Which one is better depends on what you are looking for:

Fitness Studio:
  • RM100/month

  • Free drinks

  • Computerized locker system

  • No professional trainers advising

  • Steam room (only for ladies)

Celebrity Fitness:
  • RM149/month (1 year contract)

  • No free drinks

  • Need your own padlock for lockers

  • Professional trainers patrol the place and offer tips

  • Steam room and sauna (for both sexes)

Both gyms offer similar aerobics classes, so it's a non issue. Although I sorely miss the sauna/steam room, I prefer Fitness Studio among the two.

The other 'branded' gyms in Penang are Fitness First (the pioneer) and Clark Hatch Fitness. Does anyone have a comment on either one? If not mistaken, Clark Hatch is only RM50 per month. That does sound inviting. When I settle down next time, I'll probably find some gym buddies and join one. There is a gym in my college, but it's pointless without the aerobics classes.

19 December 2005

The Tuition Wars

After much procrastination, I decided to clear out my old stuff in the cupboard. There is only one area where the termite infestation is bad, but I took this opportunity to do a major clean up.

As I took out all those old revision books that I didn't have the heart to throw away, I recalled the tuition frenzy last time. Not my tuition frenzy - I only went for 4 classes a week, but rather all my other classmates. It's not uncommon for my friends to only have Thursday as their free day, so I'm thankful I escaped that fever.

But it's no denying that the tuition business is big. Upon careful analysis, tuition teachers can make as much as university professors, with half the education. After all, a doctorate is not a requirement for tuition teachers. As I was saying, it is a big business and tuition centres go all out to trash the other centres.

My friends and I would sometimes chat about the latest scandal or rumour coming out from tuition teachers about other centres. We would compare notes on who is the best teacher, and the mystery deepens if we find two teachers having similar notes. This was what happened with two famous tuition centres, EL and G. Their feud is pretty well-known throughout every school, and you are either a student of EL or G, rarely both.

I was a student at EL and I think he's pretty good. But he would sometimes drop a comment criticizing some unnamed tuition teacher. He never said names, but we knew who. And all the competition will come to a climax during public exam time. Ah, yes, the results of public examinations is the ultimate marketing tool. If a particular tuition centre has a high rate of A's, it can expect many new students the following year. Therefore centres will stop at nothing to make its students excel, and it does get interesting.

When it is near exam day some centres will hold special seminars. Basically the teacher will run through the important points, and any 'spotted' questions. They each ahve their own 'secret sources' where they get hints on what is coming out for the actual exam. Again, this is used as a comparison benchmark for new students. The more accurate the prediction, the more popular it will be.

So these seminars are organized and held as if they were secret MI6 meetings. At the EL tuition centre, the teacher will only announce the date of the seminar about a week (or less) before the actual day. This is to prevent other tuition centres, presumable G, from having their seminars on the same day. Obviously he suspects some of the students are 'double agents' reporting to G. Yes, they do resort to such dirty tricks.

Also, the notes given to us are prepared in a special manner. They are not sent to only one photocopier shop, for fear that they could be duplicated. Instead, several unnamed photocopier shops are employed, and they handle different sections of the notes. So if the competition managed to steal notes from a particular shop, it still won't be complete. And just to be extra certain, they are photostated on very yellowish paper, so any attempt to photocopy it ourselves will result in blurry notes (because of the low contrast). Pretty high tech, huh?

It's really amazing how cut throat this business has become. But as usual, humanity has shown their weakness - greed. I'm not sure if EL and G are still at odds, but I suppose so. As for me, I'm glad I do not have to rely on extra tuition anymore.

Talk To Me

I've been observing my hit counter and it seems to be climbing steadily. That's a good thing, but I can't figure out why I have so little comments. I'm sure you have something to say about my post, whether positive or negative. Even if you are too lazy to comment anything, leave a message in the Tag Board to the right. I was afraid no one could see the Tag Board, so I moved it up.

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People of Singapore Part 11

A boy observes another kid playing near McDonalds at the Singapore Science Centre. It was the school holiday period, so there are many children at the centre.

18 December 2005

The Love of Fear

My parents encouraged the reading habit from a very young age. I was a slow learner, so 'very young' meant 8 years old. I don't have a learning deficiency, mind you, but young Malaysians are not as proactive in reading compared to their first world country counterparts.

But sorry for going off-course.

My favourite books are fiction, especially horror. Actually, horror books were the only kind of books I read religiously. It started with R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series, and I've spent lots of money buying the books. At RM10, it is quite a lot for a young man like me.

And when I entered adolescence, I graduated to the Fear Street series, also from R.L. Stine. It is basically a more grown up version of Goosebumps, but I loved it anyway. I think what attracted me most was the suspense factor. Though filled with many fake scares (similar to crappy horror movies) I couldn't get enough of it. Maybe it's because other children's books are too sweet and mild. The only other book series I followed was Enid Blyton's Famous Five, but not even that matched my love for horror books.

But somehow I lost that passion. At one point I just stopped. I'm unsure of the reasons why. Was it because it is too expensive compared to RM10 pirated video games? Was it because I could predict every twist and turn in the formulaic plot? I think it was because Fear Street got boring but I couldn't find something more complex to replace it. I did try Stephen King's books, but they were too long, too dry, and too expensive. So along the way I dropped horror and picked up on fantasy epics like Harry Potter, and more recently, The Chronicles of Narnia.

Interestingly, I do not share the same love for horror movies. The good horror movies (IMHO) like Jeepers Creepers and Texas Chainsaw Massacre scare me too much while the terrible horror movies like The Sisters (Korea) and The Eye II (Hong Kong) make me sleepy. I think there's too wide a divide, and so I don't care much for horror movies. Lame excuse, I know, but I can't have my image of a fearles crusader get crushed.

People of Singapore Part 10

Cyclists going past the bridge across the Singapore river on Fullerton Road. There are many joggers and cyclists who pass by the bridge, go across Esplanade Drive towards the Esplanade, and then go back to the bridge again via The Padang (which is coincidentally a park).

17 December 2005

People of Singapore Part 9

Anglers fishing as a recreation at the river. Obviously they are not commercial fishermen. Just behind them was a couple posing for their wedding shots. It's a popular spot because you have the Esplanade in the background.

I Cried At "King Kong"

I'm not entirely proud to say it, but I shed more than a few tears at 'King Kong'. "What?" you ask.

"I thought King Kong is an action movie with some dinosaurs?"

Yes, indeed. And it does excel in its action scenes. It's been a long time since I've been enthralled by action sequences and the part of Kong vs. T-Rex is a must watch.

But there's plenty of drama, and the film excels here too. And it's where the subtext of the story speaks volumes to me. Somehow or other I identified myself with Kong's character.

He's a loner and an outcast. People consider him a freak show and did not even try to understand him, and even use force because he just looked like he deserved it. Others view him as a savage but never attempted to look beneath that thick hide - where they will discover a gentle beast that is also capable of love, perhaps much better than the rest of us.

And when I watch the moments between Ann (Naomi Watts) and Kong, they speak their love and understanding without words. And I could feel Ann's hurt because she knows what is going to happen to Kong but is powerless to stop it. Kong, meanwhile, is a simplictic creature who only wants to be left alone to love and protect Ann.

I almost broke down during the scene where Kong picks up random blonde-haired woman to see if it's Ann. It portrayed his desperation and mine too - of our efforts to find the 'One'. And let's not even talk about the final scene - two lovers being broken apart by the rest of society who do not understand (and have no interest in doing so).

I didn't count on it, but the tears welled up when those parts came. While other people laughed at his antics, I cried knowing how their temporary moment of happiness will end.

Excellent acting all around, but Adrien Brody did not fully exert his presence. CGI work on Kong's facial expression is second to none, but his full body movements seem jerky at times. At 3 hours, it is a little long but it enabled Peter Jackson to fully carve out the characters and story. I went in the cinema without expecting much, and came out with the firm conviction that King Kong is the best film this year.

Damn I'm such a sap.

16 December 2005

Pivotal Moments Part 1

I'm starting a new series of posts called "Pivotal Moments". The reason why everyone is unique even though we are atomically made up of the same stuff is because of our life experiences. It is the profound events in our life that determine our mindset and how we approach situations. For example, a female rape victim might find it hard to trust men again.

So once in a while I'll write about the pivotal moments in my life, and offer readers a very personal glimpse into the possible reasons why I am who I am. I got this idea from the TV series "Lost", which relies on flashbacks to explain why characters act the way they do, even if we initially think it's stupid. If anything, it teaches us not to judge others based on our beliefs because they may have gone through worse hell than us.

So let me start with one of the pivotal moments that strengthened my practice of casual vegetarianism. In May of this year my college's Buddhist Society organized a Releasing Life ceremony and we threw many fishes back into the river. In that post, I complained about how smelly the fishes was. And I think that experience made me a better vegetarian. Hauling the heavy buckets of fish, I kept thinking to myself, "Yucks! This is what my favourite food SMELLS like? How can I eat something that smells so bad?" It's no different that purifying garbage - it may not smell or taste like garbage anymore, but it's still garbage.

While fish is still my preferred type of meat if I'm ever forced to choose one, I'll never forget the smell of live fishes. If you would like to experience it yourself, try standing at the fist market for an hour.

People of Singapore Part 8

A group of people relaxing next to the Merlion during the evening. I'm not sure if they are foreign workers or tourists, but I don't think tourists will take a nap like the lady at the bottom. The Merlion, being the symbol of Singapore, is always surrounded by tourists. It looks great at night, but is harder to photograph. You can also see The Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay at the right of the photo, another landmark of Singapore.

Inaccurate Travel Info

I have a Cambodian friend coming to Malaysia next week and he'll be stopping by Penang where I'll be responsible to take him around. How we actually met is an interesting story better left for another post. But in order to equip myself with more tourist-oriented Penang knowledge, I have started visiting various travel guide websites. After all, if I were to take him to places where most locals go, the travel itinerary will look like this:
  1. Prangin Mall

  2. Gurney Plaza

  3. Bukit Jambul Complex

  4. Return to 1 and Repeat
But it is interesting to see how travel websites portray Penang, and some information can be quite incorrect. Take, for example, AirAsia's travel info for Penang. The first sentence reads "Penangites leap at the opportunity to remind visitors that Georgetown, the capital of Penang, is home to one of the largest numbers of pre-war buildings in Asia."

See? That's the kind of information I never knew, and I'm sure most people I know will not "leap at the opportunity" to tell you about pre-war houses. Leap towards free stuff maybe, but not such trivia.

I urge all readers to check out popular travel websites like Lonely Planet and see what is being written about your state or country. You might just learn a thing or two, regardless of its truth value.

People of Singapore Part 7

A group of chefs having a quick meeting before starting to work at the Raffles Hotel, one of Singapore's premier hotels. Food is big business in Singapore, where you can find Arabic and Thai cuisine on the same street. Most locals are proud of their food, and while their selection is varied, I still prefer the taste of Penang food.

People of Singapore Part 6

This middle-aged lady was spending the afternoon with a paperback in the courtyard of the Raffles Arcade, which happens to be next to Raffles Hotel, one of Singapore's famed hotels. The reading culture among most Singaporeans is alive and well, which is quite different from Malaysians, who find it hard to go through 1 book a year (on average).

Gym Membership Tactics

I was with friends at Gurney Plaza when one of them, HW, wanted to enquire about the rates of the newly-opened Celebrity Fitness gym upstairs. I have heard some horrible stories about the salesperson forcing you to join (story later), so I decided to do some research and see if it's true.

We approached the counter and enquired the man there about the rates. As expected, he said he didn't know (duh!) and one of his first questions to us was, "Do you have a credit card?" I find that rude but I decided to play along when he asked us to step in for a quick survey and consultation. Before going in, I decided to play safe and make sure that it was free. You just never know.

So we sat down at their coffee table and Ryan, our sales contact/tour guide handed us a survey form. It asked inane questions like "Why do you want to be fit?" to which I answered "To look better". As with all such situations, I provided fake phone numbers. I have had enough of persistent marketers calling me to learn my lesson.
Ryan glanced through our evaluation form and probably gathered that we weren't serious customers. But he was gracious enough to go through the motions by taking us on a tour of the place. He showed us the peddling machines, resistance machines, the area where the treadmills will be ("It faces the sea!"), the aerobics room, and even the toilet which comes with a steam room and sauna room.

It wasn't a terribly large gym, and after the tour we asked him about their membership rates again. And he asked us to sit down first. It was kinda like bracing us for bad news, as if we will collapse to the floor once we heard the exorbitant price. And it was - at RM149 per month for at least 12 months. If we terminate earlier we need to pay RM189. As with all marketers, he said that today was the "last day to apply to get a waiver on the registration fee and administration fee of RM300". I'm willing to bet if I came in next week it will still be the 'last day'. And he practically gave himself away when he said that if we needed to think it through first we can ask for the waiver again. Worse, he was rubbing his palms together slowly when he said it. That's body language for "What I'm offering is to MY advantage". So guys, next time you see someone rubbing their palms slowly together, run away.

Seriously RM149 is pretty pricey. Unlike Fitness First, you don't have a dedicated personal trainer. They have professionals walking about but you are not specifically assigned one. And their refreshments are not free, though their shampoo and soap is as Ryan kindly reminded us. It's not a huge place, and I doubt anyone will feel comfortable paying that much when they can hop on down to Fitness First or Fitness Studio, another gym wannabe.

Anyway, I was writing about trying to avoid a horror story. What I heard was that after explaining the rates to you, the sales staff wouldn't let you out until you signed up. And it was the kind of door that must be "buzzed out" by the staff so it turned into hell for the potential customer. I think it needed some threats of calling the police before the staff let them out. The name of the gym wasn't mentioned, and I wouldn't want to mention it here even if I knew it.

But what's with these gyms and their annoying marketing tactics? Even Fitness Studio wouldn't tell me their BodyJam schedule over the phone and asked me to go personally for more information.

15 December 2005

People of Singapore Part 5

A flower seller, taken near the Goddess of Mercy temple. Lots of devotees buy flowers to offer to the deities.

People of Singapore Part 4

A woman buying ice-cream around the Bencoolen Link area, where there is a large Goddess of Mercy temple nearby. These traditional ice-cream stalls are very rare and can only be found in touristy areas, such as this. But you will never find them anywhere near the 'developed' parts like Orchard Road.

Over and Under

On Tuesday night I watched The Chronicles of Narnia at the cinema and it exceeded my expectations. I read the book earlier just so I can compare how well it translates to screen, and I have to say it is Very Good. I think it is a better film adaptation than any of the Harry Potter movies. It might have something to do with the fact that The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is only 80 pages versus The Goblet of Fire's 700+, but I think all the first-time actors in Narnia expressed their emotions very well. Compared to the book, the screenwriters have wisely edited some scenes to make it more suspenseful and it worked out very well - and most reviewers agree.

And tonight I watched the highly-rated 40 Year Old Virgin, starring Steve Carell. As the title suggests, it is the story of how Andy, an old virgin, tries to lose his virginity with the help of his wacky friends. I was expecting it to be really good because most romantic comedies suck nowadays, so it is a surprise to see it being rated so highly. Some even say it is better than "There's Something About Mary", which is a bold statement. Alas, it was not to be. I didn't find myself laughing my guts out at any point. In fact, it was more awkward because I watched it with Dad. I don't think it deserved all the praises it got.

So, while one movie exceeded my expectations, the other didn't even come near it.

14 December 2005

People of Singapore Part 3

A Christian sitting at the back of the Cathedral of the Good Shephard. Among Chinese Singaporeans, Buddhism is the dominant faith (2000). A surprising number (18.6%) professed "no religion" with Christianity (16.5%) trailing closely behind.

People of Singapore Part 2

A worker putting the finishing touches on Singapore's latest university. The construction worker is probably a foreigner, of which Singapore has 430,000 (2001).

13 December 2005

Bad Excuse

Dad, being a traditional fella, used to like eating animal skins along with the flesh. Chicken, duck, pork - you name it and chances are he loved eating their fat-laden skins.

Of course, he has become more health-conscious of late. Since last year he has been rejecting the skins and only taking the flesh. But during dinner today, I caught him eating a huge piece of pork leg skin, which has one of the highest fat contents.

"I thought you didn't take skins anymore?" I asked him.

"But this one is so soft!"

That is not a good excuse.

People of Singapore Part 1

I've taken close to 200 pictures in Singapore, which is actually quite few considering that Dad took twice as many. The reason I'm less trigger-happy this time around is because I'm aiming for a different perspective of Singapore, instead of all those scenery you find in brochures.

I decided, long before I went there, to focus on the people of Singapore. I've always had a passion for people photography because it gives meaning and warmth to the picture. My initial plans were too high, though. I had planned for a professional-esque collection of portraits with the locals posing for me. But I soon realized that this is not feasible because they are busy at the moment. So I just focused on what I can take, which resulted in a lot of faceless shots.

Under each picture is a commentary on where the place is, among other things. I want to show that even advanced countries like Singapore will always need quality people to work, and that holds true for every country. I will post a photo everyday until I exhaust my supply... and then I'll start with those brochure-type photos.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy: The People of Singapore

(All photos belong to Zemien. Reproduction without permission is forbidden.)

This picture shows a lady returning a book at the National Library (NLB) using a computerized bookdrop even though the normal counter is open. Their library is huge, and it really shows how committed the Singapore government is to building a K-society. And I can see that the people subscribe to that belief as well.

12 December 2005

Car Wash

I finally decided to wash my car this morning. I haven't washed my own car for almost a year, and the last time I sent my car to a carwash centre was in June. Yes, it's been that long. In fact, my friends call my car "Proton Forest" for all those dried leaves stuck everywhere.

Upon close proximity, I notice that my car has lost its initial shine when I first got it from the original owner. I feel bad for treating my car so badly, as all those bumps and scrapes have given rise to small rust spots all over the car. Though I'm not keen on spending money on automobiles, I have decided to get a new car after I start working before my car's value depreciates any further.

P.S. I'm now going through the pictures and audio posts for my Singapore trip. I will get them up ASAP.

09 December 2005

Over Here At Singapore!

I'm blogging all the way from the Lion City! I'm currently using the free Internet service provided by the hostel. I never thought I would be able to squeeze in some computer time because it is just so darn crowded everytime... but I guess the day doesn't start early for most guests here.

Anyway, it's jus a short blurb. It's gonna be a long day today, and you'll get to hear all about it soon on my audio blog. And hopefully lots of photos too!

07 December 2005

Moral Debate

I'm going off to Singapore tonight, so there won't be updates until next Monday. During the trip, I plan to audio blog instead of writing a journal as I usually do. And hopefully I'll take lots of nice photos.

We're travelling by bus, and mind you, it's a 10 hour coach ride. And if my last bus ride to Genting is any indication, this could be a cold and uncomfortable ride. That's why I'm bringing my eye shades to block out ambient light, and I'm pondering whether or not I should eat some cold medicine before I leave.

You see, certain cold medicine and cough syrups make you drowsy. I'm pretty immune to cough syrups but those little tablets for colds can send me into slumberland quicker than you can spell 'sleepy'. I don't have a cold anymore, but by taking a tablet I will definitely ensure a nice sleep throughout the ride.

Therein lies the moral debate. In our daily vows as a Buddhist, the fifth of the Five Precepts state that "I will abstain from drugs and liquor that cause intoxication and heedlessness". It does not include drugs for medicinal purposes, but then I'm not sick, so it's hardly for any illness. I'm wondering if by taking medicine to help me sleep, will it mean breaking my fifth precept?

On the other hand, I'm taking it not exactly for intoxication. One of the main reasons that the 5th precept was instituted by the Buddha was because we are capable of breaking the other 4 precepts when we are drunk or high. I hardly think I am able to kill, steal, commit adultery, or lie when I'm sound asleep. It is indeed an interesting conundrum, but at the moment I still think it's okay for me to take those "sleeping pills", as unhealthy as it may be.

Innovative Blog Design

I like to read other blogs, and while many of them have nice designs, I have rarely seen one that introduces its writers so well as 235guys. I found it while surfing the website of NewUrbanMale, a popular clothing store in Singapore. Anyway, as you can see below, they make each of the writers pose with 2, 3, and 5, and then animate them:

And they really made full use of viral marketing by introducing their Adopt a 235guy Program. And to show my support I am 'adopting' one of them. You can see him somewhere along my sidebar.

06 December 2005

The Ultimate Boy Band

We all know that in any boy band, there's only 1 or 2 real singers. The rest are either backup singers or good dancers. In N'Sync, we have Justin Timberlake. In Backstreet Boys, Nick Carter and AJ did the leads. In 98 Degrees, we have Nick Lachey. And inn Boyzone, there's Ronan Keating.

So I'm wondering - why don't music producers actually form a band with the best of each group? Imagine a hybrid boy band made up of the people I mentioned. Wouldn't they consistently churn out good songs?

But knowing their egos, they would probably assassinate each other in order to be the lead singer.


I was a lucky one. While growing up I never had an acne problem. Sure, I had a couple of zits now and then during my teenage years, but I did not experience a full-forced volcano eruption as promised by the Akil Baligh (Puberty) chapter in my Pendidikan Jasmani (Physical Education) textbook. Of course, I experienced another kind of eruption but that's another post.

Some my other peers weren't so lucky. My close buddy Alain is still fighting his pimples at age 21, which is a real pity because he is tall, dark, handsome, athletic, studious, and humourous guy. A real catch for any girl, but his ego is repeatedly squashed by those red marks on his face. He has been going for facials, but I wonder if it will do him any good. In fact, he has been such a loyal customer that the beauty centre is offering free facials in exchange for referrals. Thankfully I'm not exactly part of the target audience, so I don't have to be bugged by him.

05 December 2005

Tesco Cheapo

When did using Tesco products become the equivalent of wearing a T-shirt that says "I'm a cheap and stingy bastard"?

I was having lunch with a friend the other day when I pulled out my Tesco tissue paper. Immediately he chuckled and sighed, "Tesco...". Sure, Tesco products are very cheap, but does it mean it is cheap? And their product range is indeed scary. If I wanted to, I could stock my whole house with nothing but Tesco products. It seems they have everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. Toothpaste, tempura fillets, floor cleaner, roti canai, batteries, cola drink, and countless others. I wouldn't be surprised to find Tesco condoms one day.

A serious side effect of this is that Tesco's competitors are being squeezed extremely hard. Having their own brand allows them to control pricing to a minimum while cutting off the middlemen while other so-called hypermarkets such as Giant and Makro still rely heavily on other manufacturers. And let's not even talk about those mini sundry shops - do they even stand a chance?

Out of Grasp

I keep having a recurring thought in my mind to do a post on a particular scandal, or rip-off, but I always forget what when I'm about to write. Consequently, I spent the whole of Sunday trying to remember what I wanted to write without writing anything.

Anyway, I'm starting to plan my luggage for the upcoming Singapore backpacking experience.

04 December 2005

Life's A Sine Wave Part 2

[this is a direct continuation of the last post]

As I got myself up and ready to leave again, I called to mind an article I read a long time ago. It quoted a scientific study that showed that optimistic people are lucky, not the other way round. I decided to apply that thought process to myself and I left the house with confidence. Even when I forgot my wallet, I drove back in with a smile on my face. And from there my day began to get better.

In the heavy rain I managed to drive safely to YC's place and pick him up. And then we proceeded to PC Fair after lunch where I began to shop for my RAM. Surprisingly there are very few computer component stalls - mostly lifestyle products like MP3 players and speakers. This made my 512MB RAM a particular good find because most booths only stock 256MB. And at RM182, it is already pretty cheap without having to bargain. I directly plugged it into my laptop and it worked, so I'm pretty satisfied with it.

We then walked around some more before going up to the career fair upstairs. We went around, collecting free stuff, but nothing major happened. And that is a good thing considering all the terrible things that has happened. When we were about to leave, the best thing happened - I saw a mobile foot reflexology booth set up by the St. Nicholas Home for the Blind. They were only charging RM10 for 30 minutes, and I quickly jumped on the opportunity because I love massages of all kinds, and I would love them even more if it weren't so expensive. But RM10 is very reasonable and it's for a good cause so I applied for it.

I asked YC to join in, and even offered to pay for him, but he refused. Too bad, cause it was fantastic. Mr. Yusuf, the person assigned to my feet, was very cordial and friendly. He attempted to make conversation and asked me to tell him if he was pressing too hard. But it rarely hurt and it felt great all the way. I even gave him RM15 instead of RM10 but he noticed the discrepency and returned the money. How nice!

I left the place feeling much happier. Although the day started badly I kept on marching. Even when I went to the clinic to have my sore throat and cold checked, I wasn't feeling upset. I'm sorry if you read this far and didn't find any fantastic stories, but that's life. Our ordinary lives are rarely as dramatic as TV shows, but we still face the same challenges and choices.

As for me, I'm lucky I learned to make the right choice of being optimistic.

P.S. I'm kinda ending this story abruptly as it is tiring to remember what happened yesterday, and I doubt you enjoy reading every single detail of my day.

03 December 2005

Life's A Sine Wave Part 1

Life frequently throws you curve balls which you cannot avoid. In those times, one might find it hard to even stay optimistic, but I've learned that it is an important thing to do. Today is an important day for me as I realized this wisdom firsthand. The day started early at 7.30am as I had to finish animating a presentation for the temple abbot. Basically my plan for today was:
  1. Drop by the school to pass over a CD

  2. Go over to the temple and demonstrate the Powerpoint slides

  3. Pick up YC for lunch

  4. Visit PC Fair to buy notebook RAM

  5. Pick up dinner

  6. Send the laundry for washing
However, things started getting progressively worse from the moment I got ready to leave. It was raining heavily at the time and the balcony of my father's room was beginning to flood. Apparently the exit hole is blocked by leaves. If it spills over into the bedroom, it will be extremely messy. In fact, it has happened once and I suspect it is a major contributor to our termite problem.

It was time to go, and if I waited any longer I would be delayed. But I decided to do the right thing. I took off my jeans, grabbed a toilet bowl cleaner (it was the closest usable item), and pushed away the obstructing leaves in the rain. It was only a quick 3 second sweep but it still made me wet. I began to wonder how this will affect the minor cold I'm having.

With that out of the way, I proceeded with my plan. I had a lot of things to load up so I prepared the dirty clothes, CDs, and water. Before I bagged my laptop, however, I decided to loosen the screws of the RAM cover plate. When I opened it up I got a rude shock - there's only one RAM slot! Specifically, half of it is embedded and the other 128MB is slotted. That means whatever I buy will have to replace that 128MB chip. This was a bummer because I wouldn't be able to achieve the 256 + 512MB target. I decided to make the best of it and moved the 128MB chip over to Dad's laptop. Thankfully his Toshiba laptop has an extra slot so it was put to good use. And if I am not mistaken, all that RAM jamming took up 20 minutes.

By now my schedule began to go haywire and I messaged my friend YC that I'll be late picking him up. I began to rush a little and packed everything up in the boot. I was done and was walking towards my car in the rain when I slipped on the ceramic tile and fell butt-first onto the wet floor. I let out a yelp of pain and a billion thoughts ran through my mind...

"Damnit! You should have known better!"

"All those times that Dad warned you.... gone to waste!"

"You know very well that your shoe has close to zero traction.... why walk so fast?"

Those, among other thoughts, went through my mind as I lay there in the rain, simply immobilized. In that 1 minute I decided I will have to cancel the whole day's plans - no question about it. Too many bad things happening, and it wasn't even afternoon. 2 December is just screaming out "bad omen" everywhere I go.

I picked myself up after feeling much better and began to look for the keys I dropped while I was in midair. My back was completely soaked and I decided to go in and do something about my butt cheeks first. I was a little giddy but somehow I managed to make my way to my room and took off my clothes. I then used some massaging oil (minyak urut) especially for preventing bruises on my butt and neck, which was starting to hurt as well.

As i sat there waiting for the cool methol feeling to seep in, my mind began to clear. It didn't hurt as much now so I could actually go on with my plans to visit PC Fair. By the time I was ready to go again, I had changed into new clothes and told myself to stay optimistic. There is no such thing as 'bad omens', just bad thinking. I kept psyching myself up so I would keep myself away from more unfortunate circumstances.

[To find out how the rest of my day progressed, tune in tomorrow! I'm too tired now from the cold medicine I took - more details next post]

01 December 2005

Barber Wars

I needed to get a haircut soon because I wanted to look dashing while traveling around Singapore next week. Actually it's just becoming too messy to deal with so I planned to go for a close trim. And then I remembered a particular flyer I was given in Prangin Mall. It was promoting a particular hair saloon's recent relocation and is offering a haircut + wash + blowdry for RM19, 45% less than their usual RM36. I was intrigued and so kept the flyer.

My usual hairdresser charges me RM8 for a simple haircut, and it has been RM8 for years. RM19 is much more expensive but I decided to give it a shot because of the hair wash. Now, anyone who has had their hair washed at a good hair saloon will say it's a relaxing experience. The massaging and kneading of the scalp can send the stress away. I haven't had a good scalp massage since 1.8 years ago (I keep track), so I was raring for more.

So I drove over to Prangin Mall and went looking for this saloon. Along the way, I saw another saloon's banner proclaiming almost the same offers, except it's RM25 instead of RM19. Later on after my haircut I also saw another saloon offering the same services for RM18. There seems to be stiff competition around and they keep undercutting each other. This might explain the following warning on the flyer: "Beware! Copy-cat follow our promotion".

But if my RM19 haircut is any indication, I won't be going to the others. I was disappointed in both the washing and the haircut. But I can't say which disappointed me more. The hair wash was barely a wash - I could have done better myself. Instead of giving me a 10 minute, or even a 5 minute scrubbing, the guy just washed my hair at the rinsing area. He was done with the hair wash within 4 minutes.

The haircut was also a let-down. I wanted something funky and I did tell the bloke to recommend something but he went ahead and gave me back my old hairstyle. It is slightly better than my usual RM8 haircut, but it was not as ground-breaking as I had hoped. Perhaps I was expecting way too much, but I expect to at least get my money's worth on the hair wash (which I didn't).

I will dye my hair later tonight. I've tried it out on a few strands of hair last night, and it came out a very dark, chocolatey brown instead of the gold ash blonde it is supposed to be. But I can't have everything now, can I?