30 April 2006

The Ancient Vault: First Day of College

(This post was written in 2003. It is part of the blog's one year anniversary celebration.)

Ahh… college. The holy grail of most Malaysian students is to get away from the highly regimented Government school system. The more lucky people get to go to college, like me. The less fortunate stay back in Form 6 and try to get the course of their choice at a local university. The highly fortunate pack their bags for U.K., Australia or the U.S. and live a life of high luxury or at least in a rent-controlled flat eating Maggi mee 3 times a day.

Well, there I go off topic. I feel lucky I got to go to INTI College without much trouble to my father. Tomorrow's my first day there and I get to have a first-hand experience at the so-called Holy Grail. Whether or not I will experience heavenly bliss or hellish despair remains to be seen.

First off, I get to start anew. None of my classmates are in my course and therefore, I am a "new leaf". Before I even start on the path towards a degree in Software Engineering, I need to first excel in my "Social Engineering". That means making friends with my enemies. OK, OK, competitors. I'd like to use the word "frenemies", which is a combination of the words "friends" and "enemies". Till I know some of them well, they are people I need to get ahead of. But I have yet to see who might be "the high achiever", "the nerd", "Ms. Personality", and "Ms. Shy", among others.

One thing I know, it's the start of a great new journey. (The above was written the night before)

Period 0 - Waking up

Woke up 6.45am. I haven't done that since a long time ago. Did my usual and had cereal for breakfast. I don't know of anything specific to bring, so I took my Palm, an A4 notebook and myself. I started driving there at 7.35 to avoid the morning jam. It seems though, the jam had beat me. Greenlane was already choking up, and with a certain Bas Kilang that was happily spewing obnoxious Carbon Monoxide into my car, I knew it couldn't get any worse. And it didn't! I am extremely grateful for the continuously flowing traffic, which cleared once I got into Yeap Chor Ee road.

Period 1 & 2 - Fundamentals of computing and information technology

As I made my way to Seminar Room 5 in Block B, I prayed that the lecturer would not teach about the history of computing. I have heard enough of Charles Babbage and friends, although I don't know enough. Well, anything is better than Moral Education which I will be having later.

I got stuck in the morning rush at Greenlane, so I only made it in time. Or so I thought. I went into Block B, thought it should be in Block C, and went there. Then it dawned on me that it IS in Block B and rushed back. What a start! Luckily, the class has just begun.

The teacher, Ms. Ooi is a petite young lady who is a graduate from a Melbourne university. Today is her first day, just like us. I can already hear emergency sirens as she said that. To her credit, she seemed absolutely capable to teach the subject, which is an introduction to I.T. Nothing fancy.

I made friends with the two people sitting on either side; En Chong and Pei Yin. Then I also met Aigini, who is 21. Apparently, she took the wrong courses and did not achieve much success in them. IT is her new path.

Period 3 & 4 - Computer Graphics Editing

After she ended on time, we left for Lecture Hall B. According to En Chong, our lecturer for this subject, Mr. Chong, taught him in IT at Han Chiang before. En Chong said that he's quite good and I hoped so too.

He was right, I suppose. He seems pretty knowledgeable, unlike some of my ex-teachers who teach from the textbook. For this class, we had to learn about Multimedia and Adobe Photoshop 7. This should be the most challenging class this semester as I'm a staunch supporter of Jasc Paint Shop Pro. Oh, well.

Mr. Chong had a firm grasp of English, but had the tendency to pronounce some words oddly. Like "questions". He would say it as "quiz-chens". Then there is "problem" becoming "prom". I'm sorry, but is that a new form of short form?

It thankfully ended soon because it was getting a bit unbearable. Theory lessons are just SO boring! But before we could make a sprint for the door, the head of the G.O., the General Office which handles everything and anything (because it's general, geddit?), came in for an announcements. Apparently, there were some subject reshuffles and our 1-hour break was extended to 2 hours. It will be compensated with another hour on Wednesday.

Period 5 & 6 - Lunch break

My stomach was already rumbling way before lunch break. Apparently, I can no longer have just cornflakes for breakfast. I had to eat something more calorie fulfilling without risking extra pounds.

The cafeteria is just a floor down and as I was about to approach the staircase when I saw an ex-classmate who was also studying here, but in a different course. I exchanged pleasantries with David Lai and briskly made my way down. He was with his friend so I did not have to bother with keeping him company.

For lunch, I wanted to see how the cafeteria compared to the good ole school canteen; both in terms of quality and price. I'd pretty much puke there and then if they were selling the same stuff. Luckily, they were not.

I had rice, with steamed tofu (I know, I can't believe it too!), one spring roll of average size and, an upper thigh piece of fried belacan chicken. I threw in a glass of orange juice for good measure. It all rounded up to RM3.60, which is surprisingly okay; considering that they charge RM1.20 for an egg sandwich. I still had to change my habit of rushing through recess - I had just been upgraded from a 20 minute break to a 2 hour lounging time. Nevertheless, RM3.60 was swimming in my gastric juices within 10 minutes. Add a couple sitting nearby that was mentally making out and you would have finished it quickly too.

With 1 hour, 49 minutes and 50 seconds to go before next class, I went to the library for the first time here. It's a pretty comfortable place. I took a gander at what was available. Then it struck me. More inevitable than the SARS virus, I was hit by a sleepy spell, the type where your eyes felt like mountains after a good meal and being in a comfortable environment. My subconscious immediately led me to find a good place to sit, out of view from the librarians. I could not. So in the end, I just sat for a short while, resisting the urge to get 40 winks by analyzing my timetable. It got too hard and I left, walking, browsing around the college notice boards.

At long last, the time came for my next class.

Period 7 & 8 - Moral Education

Ugh. What more can I say? I dreaded this subject from the day I knew what Moral Education was. I could only hope for a quick death. I took my seat on the 4th level of the lecture theatre with En Chong by my side and Pei Yin in front.

The lecturer, a middle-aged lady, stepped calmly into my room. Ms. Noor Aini was her name. She seemed a nice lady, but I wondered what I would make of the syllabus as she handed out the course structure. I took a short glance and I felt enormously relieved. No more "16 Nilai utama!" Not even close to Pengajian Am which my friends in Form 6 had to endure. There were many topics that are great for discussions, the only prerequisite is that she must know how to carry it.

She spent the next hour or so explaining our course and the importance of not cheating in our assignments. She threw in a lot of real life examples which were occasionally peppered with funny comments. "Hey, this isn't all that bad!" I thought to myself. Then it got even sweeter. One hour and 15 minutes into her lesson, she let us off, quoting an unwritten rule among lecturers that the first week of college is for students to settle in. That's fine by me. Very fine.

Final period - Going home.

Well, that's it - first day of college! I survived it with no major happenings yet. It could have been worse, trust me. In conclusion, my inferences last night were quite true; it indeed is the beginning of a great journey. A quite-expensive journey, I might add.

29 April 2006

The Ancient Vault: The Woe of School Societies

(This post was written in 2003. It is part of the blog's one year anniversary celebration. I was obviously writing based on my life then.)

5 to 10 years ago, being in school societies and holding a position in it is a major priority of students, especially the senior ones. They were required to join clubs and uniform bodies as part of a wholesome upbringing in school. Fast forward to the new millennium, and you see most students avoiding taking positions of responsibility and commitment.


For one, the Education Ministry has enforced the merit system whereby university admissions will be governed by how well you perform in public examinations. Involvements in societies only became a tie-breaker, and there really aren't any ties to break.

But that is just the crux of the problem. Students attitude towards the importance of societies have a much bigger impact. As a student myself, I am very well aware of the average student's mindset. They want the easy way out; they want to wipe their hands clean of any responsibilities. They do not want to be bogged down by responsibilities. Even before they go out to the real world, they want to be "home-free".


When these students go out to work or to study, they will fully feel the impact of the mistake that they have done. In school, they have the chance to make mistakes from their decisions and learn from it. In the real world, you can't afford too many mistakes. In result, those that are really capable, i.e. those that were responsible and sensible enough, will be the ones to thrive. And when those stupid students can't seem to achieve success, who do they blame? Everyone but themselves.

There are also other implications that are present at school. Those that are "good", those that teachers view as responsible, capable people are always chosen for high positions like President, Secretary and so on. What happens? These capable people are overloaded with commitments and as a result, their academic performance suffers. Even then, with the negative mindset youths hold these days, the "capable" people are just the best of the worst. It's no different than choosing the apple with the least worms from a basket of bad apples.

Moral of the article is: Young people are constantly given the opportunity to learn and lead but they have a misconception that it means wasting time. If you have the chance, go for it and maintain a healthy balance. You can't go wrong, and if you do, you now know better than to repeat it again.

28 April 2006

Plan B Activated

I know I promised to celebrate the blog's anniversary in style, but some things have had to change a little.

I promised three events: The Ancient Vault, The Geek List, and The Top 12 Posts of Zeem!.

The first two events are proceeding as planned, which means you won't see a normal post starting from tomorrow. However, I am going to cancel the Top 12 Posts event. Yes, I admit I was too lazy to pick out 12 posts out of 500+, but I did go through a couple of months and this is what I realize:

My posts suck.

Perhaps I am being my own worst critic, but it's true. I read many of my posts and I go "Huh? Did I actually write that crap?" Plus, even the best blogs out there don't have as much self-pride. You don't see Kenny Sia putting up his own very Best Of list now, do you? So there's no reason for me to get all kembang over my very modest achievement.

However, the show MUST go on! A complaint I have gotten from a reader is that my blog posts look dull because there are no photos. In response, I will hold a Photo Week from 7 May to 13 May, where I will look through my photo collection to find any interesting photos to show the world. I will try to show some of the Cambodia photos I've taken and perhaps a group photo with me in it. Knowing how egoistic I am, expect to see more photos that features me, Zemien, and I.


Let the celebrations commence!

I Feel Loved

When I was in Cambodia, Jennifer from Fitness First called me, presumably to get me to sign up after my first free trial session. The international call charges that I have to bear would cost more than a month's membership if I allowed her to say all the usual marketing spiels, so I cut her off and said that I was not in the country at the moment and could she call me the week after. She agreed, and hung up.

Just a few minutes ago she called again and asked when I was free to come in and collect my free training voucher. I told her that I was just there last evening, and she went "Huh!?!?!". Yes, she said 'huh' with all those exclamation points and question marks. She was practically shocked that I went there without asking for her.

She asked who called me in and I said a friend, but I also told her Leon attended to me. When asked, I told her that I had not signed up yet because I have not finished my course. I would only consider joining in August. Therefore, I have three salesperson waiting to sign me up in August - Nurul (from the first trial), Leon (from the second trial), and Jennifer (who somehow got my number).

I feel loved. Pathetic, ain't it?

Fitness, Second

This evening I went to Fitness First, Island Plaza again at the invitation of Joshua. He was willing to use his RM65 guest pass on me, but managed to put me under a trial session so I had to go through the boring survey again.

I finally tried both BodyJam and BodyCombat, and I loved them both. BodyJam is indeed very feminine with all its booty shaking and hip swaying but I think it's great practice for dancing. Especially since I know I have two left feet. It was very low impact and I hardly exerted myself, but it was nice knowing I was the only guy left in the studio after the class (besides another male instructor).

BodyCombat was more action-oriented and is based on simple martial arts moves. Though I did not get my kicks correctly I had a lot of fun. But when it came to doing pushups I am reminded of my pitiful arm strength. Gotta work on that.

I then finished off with another quick cooldown in the wet steam room with Joshua. It is definitely more bearable when you have someone to chat with, unlike my first attempt.

Before I left, I got another sales pitch by Leon, the guy assigned to me. Apparently it costs almost RM1000 to join Fitness First. Phew! I did tell him the truth about me not being in Penang now so I have managed to get them off my back for another 4 months. I still don't know which gym to join really - anyone has any place else to recommend?

27 April 2006

Zemien Scissorhands

I have not cut my nails in almost 2 weeks, but it's not due to my laziness - really! Dad lost the only nail clipper in the house. Lame, right? So I had annoyingly long nails when I was in Cambodia, and I just couldn't stand it anymore. I took a pair of scissors and started cutting. The fact that I could very well cut off my fingers didn't scare me. On the contrary, it was impossible to get it close enough so I was cutting my nails, but not really cutting it much.

But I thought, 2mm off is better than letting it grow. So I did my left hand and then proceeded to my right. That's when I realize that I am a right-hander. I am practically disabled when using my left hand to co-ordinate and exert controlled amounts of pressure. I was left with not using enough power to cut anything, or using too much power which will leave me with 5 less fingers.

I aborted the operation. Luckily I did not end up with inbalanced fingernail length. That would be more of an embarrassment than ripping someone's hand off when I shake it.

25 April 2006

The Trouble With Me

I just can't get any souvenirs! It's not like I didn't try, you know. The thing is that the things on sale do not appeal to me at all. I have a list of about 10 people who I plan to buy something for, but at this point in time I am still empty-handed. This is a real crisis indeed.

Many of the things on sale are not uniquely Cambodian. When I buy souvenirs I want to buy things that were produced and only available there. But many of the scarves, beads, and trinkets can be bought in Hatyai as well. T-shirts are always unique of course, but I don't like advertising for anything. And I seem to have inherited Dad's ultra-frugal nature. That means the quoted price is always too expensive, but I am too lazy to negotiate until the price is cheap.

The best thing to buy, I feel, is local food. It is cheap, can be shared by many people, and is unique. As good as Khmer food is, I have not seen any local snacks! I wouldn't mind buying a few packets of local crackers or something, but there is none! I am such a disappointment to all those eagerly waiting for their gift...

24 April 2006

Let Me Reiterate My Point

The previous post may seem a little harsh, so let me provide two examples that happened today at Angkor Wat to shed light on what I mean:

I was holding a digital camera with video capabilities and Dad was holding a photo-only DSLR camera. While we were walking around the main area of Angkor Wat, Dad asked for my camera to record some video. He took one of the steep steps leading to one of the three main pagodas. However, that particular flight of steps was closed off, so it wasn't very nice. I commented, "You should have video-ed one of the steps that were not closed off."

And he replied, "That's because I expected you to video it."

It was already 5pm but he insisted on climbing up the stairs. He went ahead first as I had to pack all my stuff into my backpack. When I was about to go up I saw him waving at me to stay there. I thought that maybe it was about to close so they didn't want anyone going up anymore. I waited patiently for him to come down for 25 minutes. I dared not go off on my own because he demanded we stick together. When he finally came down I asked him why he didn't want me to go up.

He replied, "You have bad balance."

In both cases, I was left speechless and so frustrated I didn't even bother to reply. I could have replied with another witty remark, but he is protected by parental immunity so all I could do was grin (barely) and bear with it. Can you see now the source of my unhappiness? How can one go on a backpacking holiday when instructions and communication are almost one way? He has a natural distrust of strangers and always assume the worst. Those two qualities may keep us alive, but it is NO fun and he ends up being rude to all the people around him as if he is a more superior human being.

*sigh* Ranting is chicken soup for my soul. Now back to another torrent of verbal abuse tomorrow.

23 April 2006

Reminder to Myself

I'm now in our hotel in Siem Reap, waiting for our tuk-tuk to take us to Angkor Wat. I am reminded again, and Again, and AGAIN, "Do not go on holiday with Dad."

But I never listened,

19 April 2006

Till Death Do Them Part

There are several milestones that indicate someone is well on his way to adulthood. One of them is being invited to a wedding. There is a fine line between following your parents who were invited to a wedding, with going to a wedding where you are actually a named guest.

And tonight, I will be attending my first ever wedding reception. Bian was my first lecturer during my first year in college, and she is still one of the nicest lecturers I've met. She was always very cordial and frequently hung out with us. And she finally found her Prince!

She invited a gang of her ex-students, so that includes David, Joey, etc. We will all be seated at one table so it's going to be a mini-reunion of sorts as well. I am taking Dad's DSLR camera so I'll be snapping as many photos of us together because Bian will be moving to Australia permanently.

There is one little glitch in my master plan though. I have been experiencing a wave of pimples on my face and it is not pretty. I attribute it to the immense stress lately, but it could possibly be the puberty acne I never had. Either way, I will not be blemish-free by tonight and it is really annoying. Sure, it isn't my wedding but I would like to look as good as I can. At the moment, looking good will require me to turn my head to the left to strategically hide the marks.

I will post some Photoshop-enhanced photos once I come back from my Cambodia trip (20-26 April). There will be no regular updates until then.

18 April 2006

Some Tar For You?

As I've mentioned previously, two of my fingerprints are gone. A few days back I went into a random pharmacy and consulted the pharmacist. I did not expect much from the consultation as I assumed they will just recommend some antibiotic cream. The pharmacist took one look at my fingers and recommended pine tar gel for it.

According to him, I have a form of dermatitis. And it is caused by a sensitivity to certain things. I have always thought of myself as a sensitive guy, but I didn't know I had the skin to go with it. Anyway, I did some reflection and realized that this problem started about a year ago, while I also started swimming at the same time. So based on circumstantial evidence, the chlorine must be causing this.

With a heavy heart, I have to say goodbye to my swimming days. To maintain the exercise momentum that I've been building up, I will join the lame college gym instead. It costs around RM80/month for less than 25% of Fitness First's facilities, and FF only charges RM108 for students. But I have no choice as I prefer to have my fingerprints back.

17 April 2006

Are You Happy?

When I went for my free trial at Fitness First yesterday, I was greeted by Nurul who asked me a few questions as part of their survey. One question she asked was, "When was the last time you felt happy?" As any motivational guru will advise you, I replied "Today".

Nurul seemed taken aback by my response. "Really? Wow I've never heard anyone said that before."

Then I was taken aback. Are all gym-goers unhappy people who seek happiness in bigger muscles? Must I be unhappy with my body before I can join a gym? Yes, I would like to improve my muscle tone but I will still be perfectly satisfied if I do not join a gym.

But I wasn't lying when I said I was happy yesterday. I have many things to be thankful about - my consistent results, my improving health, my decreasing weight, and a holiday in Cambodia coming up. There are still a few hiccups here and there, but I'm at the prime of my youth and I intend to enjoy every bit of it.

Fitness, First

As part of my ongoing review of gyms that I would like to join (previously: Celebrity Fitness and Fitness Studio), I went for a free trial at Fitness First today. Fitness First, the pioneer of the gym craze in Malaysia certainly deserves a review. Close personal friend Joshua has already become Fitness First's close personal promoter, so I owed it to him to see what he was raving about.

The Fitness First branch at Island Plaza is rather small. In fact I think it's the smallest of the three I visited. However, they do have more cardio machines than either Celebrity Fitness or Fitness Studio. In terms of space, Fitness Studio is the clear winner - with 3 Group X rooms of varying size.

Fitness First, like Fitness Studio also has free beverages but no snack for sale. However, it seems that outside food is allowed because HW pointed out some folks having a mini picnic with their fried bee hoons and salad. In terms of facilities, Fitness First excels in its locker room. It has dry and wet steam rooms for men, and also plenty of shampoo and soap in the showers. I tried out the steam room for the first time in my life. I couldn't stand the dry one but the wet steam room is much more tolerable.

Of course, the main purpose I would like to join a gym is for the Group X activities. The Les Mills system is an obvious choice, but anything else where I can exercise to the music is fine. My timing was bad that time I tried Fitness Studio, but I finally managed to join a class today.

First up was BodyAttack, which Joshua claimed to be a bad start as it's really strenous. On the contrary, I enjoyed it a lot and did not really miss out too much. Though I moved around like crazy, I never once felt light-headed, which is usually a sign that I will black out. After I successfully completed my first Les Mills class, I was raring to go for more. The next class was BodyStep, which is supposed to be Malaysia's favourite session. However I found it to be boring because I couldn't keep up with the step co-ordination. It's really frustrating deciding which foot should step up first, so I left the room after 10 minutes. Joshua insisted I join BodyPump right after that, but I had to be on my way so I just observed them for a few minutes before taking my leave.

Overall it was an interesting experience. At the moment, my choices are either Fitness First or Fitness Studio. One major factor which will come into play when I make my decision is the parking. I paid RM5 for parking at Fitness First, but much less for Studio. And Fitness First is so much farther than Studio for me.

My next trial will be at Clark Hatch. It's the cheapest of the designer gym bunch, so I'll see if I get what I pay for. Anyone has any experience with them?

16 April 2006

Modernized Saying

I'm sure you've heard of the saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side."

But that is a really old saying. 200 years ago when our ancestors were working in agriculture, the neighbour's grass might very well seem greener.

In this day and age, we need an updated version that people can relate to. And as I drove home to Penang the other day, I knew what the new saying should be:

"The traffic is always faster in the other lane"

Just observe during a traffic jam, how many people switch from one lane and then to the other even though they are still stuck in the end?

15 April 2006

I Can Foresee Today's Post Already

There seems to be a repeatable pattern to my blog everytime I come back to Penang. First, I would complain about getting tired of being around Dad (although I empathise with his need to talk incessantly). Secondly, I would complain about termites (See here, here, and here).

I'm going to deal with termites again later in the afternoon. I have a lunch appointment with Mum, but after that I would have to help Dad clean out the storeroom under the staircase. It's damp, dark, and full of boxes - the perfect hideout for termites.

Sometimes I get so frustrated with Dad. How many pieces of furniture must the termites destroy until he is willing to call in professionals? One of the tables in my room has also been eaten, but I can't get it out because it would mean 'redecorating' my room. I know, even professional services are not 100% effective, but it's better than nothing right?

Although I think he has a more cunning plan. I doubt he wants to sell the house because it is in a nice location, so I'm just afraid that one day, he would pass the problem on to me. Oh dear, what have I said?

14 April 2006

Home Sweet Home

It feels good to be able to walk around naked in the blissful privacy of my own room again.

Too many details?

13 April 2006

Close Shave

The feeling of bliss after exams have never felt better. I have become numb to that exhilaration as you write down your last point, partly because I never worked particularly hard to reach that moment. But today was different. Today I actually felt the joy of finishing up my last paper because the past 24 hours have been Hell.

I actually had two papers today - Subject A from 8-11am, and Subject B from 12-3pm. Subject A is harder than B, so for most of the time I only focused on A. When I finally started studying for B yesterday afternoon I realized with much horror that I would not be able to finish remembering all the points. I can recite points from Subject A without batting an eyelash, but for Subject B..... let's just say batting eyelashes won't help one bit.

In a twist of irony, the easier subject has become the harder! I had not much time left, and I had to take drastic action. I decided I had to sleep less so I can study more but staying up late is not my specialty so I planned instead to wake up early. That means I need to start sleeping earlier but that's a huge problem in itself for I have been having trouble sleeping before 12.30am.

In a move of desperation, I ate one of those small yellow pills they give you for colds. It makes me drowsy as hell so I'm using it as a sleeping pill. It's not healthy, I know, but I've done it before without consequence. And anyway, I am supposed to be recovering from flu so I have a valid reason to misuse drugs. It worked, and by 11.00pm I was dozing off to slumberland.

The effect of the drug wore off by 2am and I woke up momentarily, but luckily I managed to get some shut eye until 4.30. I got up, had some buns, and plowed through the notes. I managed to finish by 6am and got some extra rest before getting ready for Subject A's exam. That one went quite smoothly although it had its bumps. My concern now is squarely on Subject B.

I had about 1 hour to have lunch and revise. However, when I got back to those same notes, I had trouble recalling the points. This was terrible news as my early morning sacrifice did not pay off handsomely. I am very much against last-minute studying but here I am trying to separate one point from the other. I was getting nervous - what if the questions all came out from the parts I never read?

Thankfully I knew some self-motivation tricks. I put down my notes and said, "Enough." There is not enough time to remember them anyway. The important thing, I told myself, is to calm myself down so that the points will naturally come to me in the exam hall. I have gone through all these lessons before so I have the data in my brain, it's a matter of shutting up the voices in my head so I can listen to what it is saying.

And it worked. I was nervous up to the point I began writing my first answer. On my initial glance, I was quite upset because the questions were never what I had hoped. But as I tricked myself into thinking that everything will be fine, it became fine. Answers floated to the surface and I was writing like nobody's business. To be safe, I answered 5 questions instead of the required 4, just to be safe. This isn't my best performance, but I'll get my A nonetheless.


Now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for me to PARTAYYYY!!!

12 April 2006

Dangerous Living

I've been spending my time rather dangerously. I should be studying and memorizing all my notes for my coming exams, but instead I am surfing the Web, chatting on MSN, typing this post, and worst of all...

I am hooked on a video game!

To relax after staring at my handwriting for so many hours, I decided to dig up an old Game Boy Advance game "Final Fantasy Tactics". I don't technically have a Game Boy Advance but with the wonders of modern computing I can trick my laptop into behaving like one. Kinda silly of me to play such primitive games on my laptop, but it's not powerful enough to run the latest games.

As primitive as it is, I got hooked almost immediately. Within the past 5 days I have logged more than 9 hours of play time, and I am just astonished how gullible I still am. With the obsolescence of my Playstation 1 about 3 years ago, I was left stranded with nothing great to play. I thought I finally kicked my bad habit of spending insane amounts of time playing RPGs, but I was so wrong.

It's so bad that I had to force myself to play a maximum of 2 hours a day. If not I will degenerate into playing it for 4 hours straight, which is what happened on Monday evening. Just thinking of my weakness towards video games makes me shiver.

Which reminds me, the first thing I'm going to do after I graduate is to finally buy a PS2. Time to give in to my desires.

Am I Ready?

A friend of mine, Cj, is going to graduate this month, and when I look at him I wonder if I'll be strong enough when my time comes. In less than 5 months I will also be saying the same goodbyes, and probably shedding the same tears. However, knowing how I handle traumatic events, I will be super calm during the farewell and only cry one day after the last day of class.

However, I can only afford to think about such things for a few minutes. It's time to kick into gear and do well in my exams tomorrow.

11 April 2006

No, It's Not!

I read the following tragic news today:

Girl locked in van dies (The Star)
KUALA KUBU BARU: A six-year-old girl who was locked inside a van for almost three hours died of heat exhaustion five days after she was found slumped inside the van.

Apparently the girl dozed off in the van while on her way to her kindergarten in Bukit Sentosa near Bukit Beruntung at 7.05am last Wednesday.

The heat caused the organs in Syarifah Fatin Syahirah Syed Ahmad Najmi's body to fail.


According to a police spokes- man, the incident happened on Wednesday, after the van driver, aged 39, had picked up Syarifah Fatin Syahirah and her sister Sharifah Nurulain Shafi- qah, seven, from their house in Jalan Tulip 2, Bandar Bukit Sentosa.

“Not realising that the girl had dozed off and had not been sent to her kindergarten which he also owns, the driver dropped seven other children including her elder sister at the private religious school an hour later.

“He then locked up the vehicle at an open space near the school and rushed off to Kuala Kubu Baru in a car parked there earlier, to attend a court case against him for not having a valid permit in 2003,” he said.

Quite horrible, right? But I did not recoil with anger until I read another related report:

Joy at girl’s reading skill turns to sorrow (The Star)


The van driver and owner Azahar Sahan, 39, said he regretted what had happened and was ready to bear the responsibility for it.

“This is all a test from Him (God). [emphasis is entirely mine]

“I'm ready to be charged if I'm truly guilty,” Azahar said.

Er... no, Azahar! This is not a test from God! You were negligent and didn't check the van properly! You can't accept responsibility until you admit that she died through your own actions. I don't think you are worth sacrificing a 6 year old girl just to test you.

(News taken from The Star Online, but direct links not provided because they can expire)

10 April 2006

The End is Nigh!

I sincerely believe, Ladies and Gentlemen, that we are going to face a tough century. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's the end of the world, but I have a strong gut feeling that I will get to see the world start to kill itself during my lifetime.

Here are some reasons why:
  1. Price of fossil fuels are skyrocketing while supplies are dwindling
  2. Effects of global warming suddenly seem to be nearer than ever (9820 hits on Google News at the moment)
  3. Decline of Religion (killing people because some foreign newspaper drew a comic of your Prophet is never warranted)
  4. Religious Fundamentalism: In order to prevent #3 (Decline of Religion), some religious fanatics are trying to impose religious laws in the form of "morality laws". For multicultural Malaysia, anyone who is not Islam is soon going to be put under Islamic Law anyway. It goes without saying countries like Iran were run by fundamentalists most of the time. Even the United States is having the same problem, where people are trying to make schools teach about "how God created the world" instead of "Evolution resulted in this world".
  5. People are resorting to violence to express dissatisfaction at governments. Sure, this is old news but they just keep popping up one after the other. Just as Thailand is starting its recovery from the peaceful protests, the whole of Nepal erupted into violent protests. Something's terribly queer.
  6. I read about a rape case almost 3 times a week in local newspapers. People's sexual behaviour are slowly becoming primitive again.
  7. China is gearing up to be the next world superpower (goodbye USA). I hope they won't be imposing their conservative ideals of the world. But hey, the world is slowly becoming conservative anyway.
  8. A worldwide epidemic is waiting to occur. Bird flu and SARS (remember that?) are just so eager to wipe humans off this Earth. No one's really talking about HIV anymore, but it's slowly becoming worse too.
I write this post with a very heavy feeling in my heart. I constantly keep track of world affairs, but not once have I been so distraught. I suddenly remembered John Titor. "John who?" you ask?

John Titor is a nickname used by someone who claimed to be a time-traveller from 2034. He made some very specific and interesting predictions about the future (but of course to him, he is just recalling history). There are many websites dedicated to this guy, such as www.johntitor.com and there are also many people who try to claim that he is a fake. You can go to the link provided earlier to read a basic Wikipedia article about him and his predictions, or just do a search on Google. Just in case you have no time, John claimed that World War III is in 2015. And we are going nuclear.

This post makes me look like Chicken Little, going around shouting "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" But unlike him, I am here to tell you that you should start making the world around you a better place. So even if the world crumbles, you are at least happy with the life directly around you.

The Banana Inside My Pants

I was walking to the toilet to take a leak when I bumped into S, my coursemate who lives on the same floor. We exchanged greetings and I saw he was holding some bananas in his hand. As we walked in the opposite direction he suddenly called out to me, "Hey, you want one ar?" I was a bit embarassed that he wanted to offer me a banana so I declined. "Nevermind, take-lah," S insisted so I just took it and said thanks.

So I walked to the toilet with a banana. I was afraid someone might see it so I put it in my pocket. It isn't particularly funny but it is definitely a queer situation to be in. David laughed as well when I related this story to him.

09 April 2006

Dwindling Bonuses

I reloaded my prepaid account with RM50 today and I got an SMS saying that I have been credited with a bonus of RM5 (10%). I was flabbergasted! Shocked! Shook off my balance! (insert other preposterous exclamations here)

Last time I reloaded I got a 12% bonus (RM6). Almost two years ago it was as high as 15% (RM7.50) for those who have been using Celcom for more than a year. While you may think that a difference of RM2.50 is not much, 10 reloads a year means you lose RM25.

With the cost of living ever rising, I feel half-cheated. Of course, call and SMS rates have been slowly decreasing as well, but I wouldn't consider RM1.20/minute call rate to Maxis numbers as cheap. Seriously, Celcom probably has the highest inter-operator call/SMS rates. The only reason I'm using it is because Dad's been using Celcom for almost 15 years. When I change my number next time, it will probably be to Maxis.

08 April 2006

But What Does It Really Mean?

As an IT student coming out to the working world very soon, I always keep myself informed of the latest news in the local IT industry. Today, our Prime Minister announced that our technology initiative, the Multimedia Super Corridor, will be renamed as...... the Multimedia Super Corridor of Malaysia.

May I say, "-_-"?

He announced that MSC Malaysia will have several upgrades listed below. What I would like you to do, dear reader, is to decipher the business buzzwords and jargon for me. Because as far as I can tell, the stuff below is really full of emptiness:

  • Revitalising the MSC brand and image to enable every Malaysian citizen to enjoy the benefits;
  • MSC Malaysia as a key driver and enabler of the local ICT sector to conquer the local and global markets;
  • Make use of ICT to accelerate the transformation of other sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, services and agriculture; and
  • Creative multimedia content industry as a new growth resource under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

  • Among the upgrades listed above can you spot any of the following?
    1. A timeline of when it will be achieved
    2. A clear scope definition of what it really means to have achieved it
    3. Who are the people affected?
    4. How much money is going to be allocated?

    07 April 2006

    Down With Flu

    Seems a terrible thing has happened... I'm sick! It started with a very sharp pain in my throat last night. I thought it was caused by acid reflux because it just came so suddenly. But with the onset of runny nose the next morning, I knew I had the dreaded flu.

    Flu bouts usually take 4-7 days to clear up. With my first exam in 72 hours, I hope it takes up only 4 days. It's still very mild now but I'm taking no chances. To join in my battle is the Fantastic Hot Honey, Super Duper Vitamin C, and Amazing Echinacea.

    Stay healthy, boys and girls!

    Scheduled Break from Blogging

    My exams are coming so soon that I don't know why I'm still typing this. Until next Saturday (15 April) there will be no daily updates. I may post something in my head once in a while but do not expect fresh, daily ground musings from yours truly.

    All the best to other students taking their finals!

    06 April 2006

    The Zeem! Birthday Bash

    Okaaayyyy... so the title is a little misleading. I'm not really having a party for the blog, but that doesn't mean I can't celebrate!

    Exactly one month from now, Zeem! turns 1! That's 365 days of blogging, and more than 500 posts. I average 10,000 words a month, so that makes it.... (gasp!) 120,000 words! When I began blogging I never thought I would have enough things to write about, but I guess my life is interesting.

    There are a million other blogs that are more popular than me, and have existed for many years. What makes turning 1 so special? Actually it is just a sensationalised trick to get more readers, but don't tell them that.

    Here's what I have planned to celebrate my one year of public online humiliation, and you are all invited!

    THEME: Getting To Know Zemien


    1. The Ancient Vault
    Do you know that Zemien existed long before Zeem! came along? It's true! He has a dirty little secret which he quickly squashed before it caused him major embarassment. However, he has decided to reveal it all! For a week before 6 May (29 April - 5 May) he will publish an old blog post every day. These are some of the earliest blog posts he has ever written, and this is the perfect opportunity for you to peek into Zemien's past!

    2. Zemien's Guide to Good Software
    On the blog's birthday itself, Zemien will celebrate it geek-style by recommending some of the best software he has ever used. Being a geek means having an arsenal of special software utilities that help him get through the day happily. And you're lucky because Zemien has decided to help all of you IT-illiterates who need it oh-so-badly.

    3. 12 Days of Zeem!
    For twelve days after the birthday (7 May - 18 May), Zemien will dig deep into his cache of 500 posts to pick the Top 12 posts of the year! He will do a countdown from #12 up to the coveted spot of #1. He will base his judgement on how significant the post was to him. As an added bonus, he will write some commentary on the particular post, and why it was chosen.


    I also realise that the bulk of my readers only came in during the second half of the year. Therefore, I will try to pick my Top 12 posts from the earlier months as I can understand your reluctance to shift through 60,000 words from the first half.

    There will be no regular posts during the celebration period. It will be sort of like an extended holiday for me. I think I deserve it before starting work on the next 120,000 words. Sorry if I kept showing off my 120,000 words. Oops, there it is again. It is just an important achievement for me.

    All well-wishing comments are most welcomed during the celebration!

    Brokeback Mountain in 30 Seconds

    Haven't watched that groundbreaking movie by Ang Lee because it's so long and boring? Well, fear no more!


    Watch a 30-second version of the movie.

    Re-enacted by bunnies.


    05 April 2006

    2 Down, 3 To Go

    I have a strange condition afflicting my fingers, and I don't know what to do with it. About a year ago, I noticed that I no longer have a fingerprint on my right ring (fourth) finger. The skin was just smooth, with no lines at all. It didn't go back to normal and I began to get worried. But since it is not affecting my quality of life in any way, I ignored it.

    About a month ago, it started getting worse. It used to be completely smooth, but then it turned wrinkly and reddish. And two weeks ago, my little pinky finger degenerated as well. Worse, the process seemed to be accelerated and now I have two fingertips with no fingerprints. And the skin kept getting drier until it started to crack, like those chapped lips.

    I had to do something, and do it fast. I thought that maybe it was a moisturizer problem, so I tried applying moisturizer to it. But the cream didn't stick long as it will get wiped off whenever I touched anything. So I improvised a plaster that used the smooth side of cellophane tape to keep the moisturizer in. I apploed it over night. The next morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see it has gotten much better. Still no fingerprint, but at least it was back to the smooth state.

    I forgot to apply it that night, and by the next day it got all wrinkly and started drying up again. Now I'm worried! I have been searching Google to try and find a name for this condition but to no avail. I have also considered the possibility that it was a virus/bacteria/fungal infection, but it just doesn't make sense. My last two fingers do not come into contact with anything that my other three fingers do not. So why are my other three fingers still doing fine?

    My latest theory is that I am experiencing some nutrient deficiency. Going on a long-term vegetarian diet creates some nutrient deficiencies such as Vitamin B12 and Zinc. I still manage to take some meat once or twice a week, and I take multivitamins, so I don't know how much this is a factor.

    I just hope that this is not some degenerative disease where I slowly lose all my fingerprints. That will cause such a headache in security matters (e.g. passport). And a waste of moisturizer and cellophane tape.

    04 April 2006

    I Boleh! You Boleh Tak?

    I always felt that we Malaysians' passion for setting trivial records like the longest badminton marathon is a humiliation.

    And guess what? Reputable US news provider Wired is kind enough to make fun of it! Way to go, record breakers!

    It's not that I will let a foreign news agency dictate what I think, but it's about this farce getting noticed by foreigners! Juara kampungs (village heroes) should be proud of themselves, but why can't we stick with just being proud instead of holding press conferences and getting published in a book?

    Sly Motivational Tactics

    My project team members have been working very hard lately to complete our project. To motivate them through this rough patch, I gave them massages. It seemed a bit unorthodox for a Project Manager to be giving foot rubs and back squeezes, but that's what I did to relax them. Jay was initially a bit shy, but soon asked me to press harder on his foot. While I love to give and receive massages, I'm not an expert when it comes to massage techniques but I think it was a worthwhile try. They are already on their way to putting more effort into the project (I hope) so I have no doubt it will be a success!

    03 April 2006

    English Invaders

    For decades, a persistent complaint we have about the Malay language is that it frequently takes English words and Malay-ify it, thus slowly eroding its identity. I've forgotten many of them but those straight off the top of my head are:
    • personification -> personifikasi

    • sexy -> seksi

    • original -> ori

    • globalisation -> globalisasi

    Of course, some say that this is happening because as a minor language, Malay has limited vocabulary. But we already have 'asli' to mean original, so what's with the 'ori' translation (which is formally accepted by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, the authority on the language).

    However, it seems that we are not the only one. While watching my favourite (and only) Japanese anime "Bleach", many English words were also used like "No comment" and "Spirits are always with you!". So I think it may be more a 'cool factor' thing rather than a lack of proper vocabulary in the native language.

    So what are the funniest direct translations that you have heard in any language?

    02 April 2006

    Pivotal Moments Part 6

    Year: end of 2003

    I had just been voted to be the first ever Chairperson of Buddhist Generation-X, a new youth group under Mahindarama Buddhist Temple, an illustrious temple in Penang. It was going to be one hell of a year for me, and one of the best years of my life. I learnt a lot of leadership lessons, and the first of many came during our first committee meeting.

    About one week after my appointment, we had a committee meeting to plan for our first ever members gathering. I noticed one of my vice chairperson, CK, was absent. I was told through another person that he was down with the flu. I thought, "OK, fine. That's excusable. We'll just proceed without him."

    Around then our advisor Bro. Raymond (as in most religious establishments, we refer to each other as Brother or Sister) heard about CK. He immediately turned to me and asked, "Did you call CK?" I replied no and he quickly urged me to call, "Zemien, you must show concern for your committee."

    I was initially reluctant to call because back then I was still a quiet guy, and I still don't know CK that well. But I did as he advised. It was very awkward and ingenuine, but I got through it OK. We just exchanged a few words and I wished him well, that was all.

    However, it was then that I realized the importance of taking care of one's subordinates, even if it's as simple as calling to see how they are doing. When you show interest in the person, he will be more willing to work for you. Ever since then, I have slowly developed my interest in other people, as opposed to being in my little shell all the time. Nowadays, I am perfecting the ability to make people feel 'treasured', regardless if I was being sincere or not. It takes a lot of practice, but I believe the results are worth it.

    01 April 2006

    April Fool's Joke

    David, my roommate who doesn't know where KFC originated, is also a man of tradition. The tradition of playing April Fool's pranks, that is. He makes it a point to fool someone every year, not realizing that he's the actual fool here.

    I got fooled by him last year, so I will be careful not to believe anything he says today. I personally despise deceitful actions, even if it's in the name of fun.

    What was the biggest prank you played, or the biggest prank played on you?