At the Playground


Read these first:-

(There is a reason why it is called children playground instead of fat bum adult’s playground. Image source: http://middleagedmary.blogspot.com/)

Last weekend, I had a damn good workout!

After a long gap, I had a good badminton session with one of the toughest opponent around – my son. Compared to last time, he can now serve and return some of my hits but conditions have to be just right – easy, slow, high shuttlecock. I don’t remember bending down to pick up the shuttlecock that many times in any of the badminton games that I have played before but I did not mind, it was a good workout to reduce the tummy size, so my wife says. We played badminton at the children’s playground where there were others playing badminton, basketball and football, cycling and walking at the same place – the number of kids in the neighborhood must have increased drastically in the last few years (hmm, some parents have been pretty, pretty busy).

It was a good 30 – 40 minutes of badminton before my son pleaded for a “5 minutes” rest which I also needed badly. We played for another 15 minutes before we took that “5 minutes” break. My son ran off to the nearest swing (a couple of buffaloes was sitting on them and refused to budge even though it was meant for children) whilst I walked around the playground and as I walked, I looked around and noticed something.

Despite the recent murder of a 5 years old girl, I was surprised to see many kids (some quite young) at the playground alone without their parents around. Ya sure, it was a gated and secured community (but then again, even gated & secured residential areas are not safe these days) and there were plenty of kids and parents around but still, anything can happen, right? I mean who would have thought a simple trip to the sundry shop to buy noodles & eggs within walking distance from the house would have ended in tragedy.

When we were were kids ourselves in the 1970s – 1980s, we used to play on our own too and without our parents standing next to us. In fact I still remember playing in the neighborhood (which was not gated or secured – most was not back those days) with my friends from morning till night without my parents getting worried. We used take our bicycles and ride around the lonely commercial areas or through dense jungles in remote areas without the need to worry about our safety. But time have changed – based on crime against children these days, it is obvious that the world have just gotten more dangerous.

(Unfortunately not all dogs are lovable and tolerant to small kids especially when the kids is a total stranger – Image source: http://www.thehealthage.com)

Then car stopped by the playground and a middle aged man came out with his young daughter. He then opened the back door and pulled out something – his burly, a large sized dog. It looked mean and nasty and that seemed evident from the thick, strong, thick leash that the man had on the dog’s collar. With his daughter running off with a ball to play, the man led the dog to the playground where a dozen or so kids were running and playing. It seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. I was kind of worried that the dog may start chasing and biting the small kids or decide to go for “a big dump” which could turn out to be messy (to those who stepped on it).

But instead, the man sat down on the grass with his burly dog by his side. No one ventured closely to them except for one small innocent, curious girl. I knew her father was standing nearby and was keeping a close eye on her. The dog stayed calm enough for the girl to stand next to the dog. The man talked to the small girl but the small girl seemed more interested on the burly dog and inched closer to the dog. The next thing I know, the father came in and took the girl to another side of the playground. I guess he was more afraid of the dog than the stranger and I would have done the same. Some people, it seems do not know when to bring their burly looking pets to places where there are plenty of children running around. And who know what is the state of mind the dog is in – what if it domicile one moment, vicious another?

From the other corner of the playground where a dozen or so kids was playing football, there was a sudden commotion. Instead of playing football, the kids stopped and gathered around two boys – one young and fat facing an older and tall boy. Each of them was shouting at each other although the older one was shouting louder than the younger one. They started with shouting at each other and then they began to push each other with the other kids trying to pull them away from each other. Then all the sudden, the older one (probably in Standard 4 or 5) started to use vulgar words – words that young children should never use or hear. If his parents had heard it, they probably would have whacked the kid to a pulp (although these days, I am not sure it will happen but in the early 1960s to 1980s, parents would not have hesitated to skin you alive for the smallest wrongdoings).

A couple of parents, who were at the playground, looked at the two boys with a sense disbelief and anger. I personally felt like walking towards the kid who uttered the vulgar words and wanted give him a couple of hard slaps on the face. But then the commotion died down – the younger fat kid backed off and walked away, evident that he has more sense and intelligence than the older one.

My son came back from his break although it took longer than 5 minutes that requested. By now there was not enough space for us to play badminton and it was getting late. We decided to call it a day and went back home but as I glanced back, there were still kids in the playground playing on their own and without any parents by their side.

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Childhood Memories – Part 24


Read the series here

(The grand daddy of all radio and even entertainment devices – the one that ruled long before we had satellite TV and one good source for news)

I was watching TV a couple nights ago when my wife asked me to “update” her MP3 files in her thumb drive. She heard her favorite song on my car MP3 player and she wanted the same for her car. My son interjected and asked for a specific song from one of the latest Tamil movies. I was kind of speechless – it is kind of interesting how we have moved from radio station only to cassette to CDs to MP3 files these days.

Do you still remember the good old days when you had none of this and you had the good old radio (and that too with a handful of channels available)? I still remember the old radio in one of my relative’s house and I still remember that it was still working and I still remember that there was no cassette player in that old radio.

(Not the same model that we had in my grandma’s house but something similar – it is a premium player. Just imagine 2 huge speakers sticking to this player and you get the idea)

The radio in my grandma’s house was a bit more sophisticated. It only had one cassette player which also came with a radio receiver and something new called “Dolby NR” and it had several dials for bass, treble and balance. For some kids like us, it was akin to driving a space ship. It had huge speakers and for long, it is only used when my uncles were around – it looked too complicated at first but soon we get to know how to work the player, we often use it to listen to music or the news on the radio.

And when we know that it can also record music from the radio, we hunted for old cassettes which were lying in the store-room and inside some of the drawers. We did not know back then but we did override a good number of ever-green and classical Tamil songs. It something we regret of doing now but back then, we did not have cash to buy new empty cassettes and seeing all that cassettes collecting dust in the storeroom and lockers, we decided to reuse them to record songs from the radio. Thankfully, none of it belonged to my uncles’ favorite collection, otherwise we would have been skinned alive.

Back then, we did not have THR Raaga or 20 plus radio stations but we had Radio FM Stereo (in addition to the sole Tamil radio channel) and in particular, it’s “Pilihan Bersama” radio program (still remember it?). It was my favorite because you get the best songs here and in FM stereo too (a rather new piece of technology back then). I recall recording the songs on the same cassettes several times over several nights – not all songs were played in complete and marking initial “BRC” on the cover to mark those cassettes that I have recorded.

(Portable, low powered and often found in many of the kitchens – providing music and news for the ladies of the house. Low tech and cheap simple speaker – it is hardly the loud music machine one would expect it to be)

That is when I am at grandma’s house. Back at home we only had a small cheap radio transistor which came with one cassette player (which we did not use much because we did not enough cassettes and also because the recordings was bad) and with one speaker. But since we listened to the radio more, the cassette player was rarely used. That radio stayed with us for a couple of years until one day it simply went broke.

(The almost exact model that my Dad bought for the house with just a small difference – this model seems to have a couple extra buttons and this time we had a real high tech machine with 2 cassette decks, removable speakers, separate bass booster, equalizers and digital radio station search. It would have been perfect if my Dad had bought the one that came with CD player as well but it was OK – this model was more than enough for us)

It was time for another radio and by now, CD players were making the headlines and I knew that I had convinced my Dad to buy one with a CD player if he decides to replace the broken radio with a newer one. I was away when my Dad went with my brother to buy a new radio so it was not a big surprise when they came back with a model that did not come with any CD player. Damn! That was my initial reaction – I guess our first encounter with a CD player had to wait for now (CDs back then were too expensive anyway). But the new radio – a Panasonic came with 2 cassette players (which meant I can copy cassette from another with ease), equalizers, a whole load of automation and good 4 speakers. We really handled the radio with great care – it was new and we knew that my Dad paid for it in installments and with a hole in his pockets.

(Sony brand Walkmans was expensive but we always had cheaper alternatives and Aiwa brand was one of them and you can get from a range of the cheapest of all with simple mechanism, low tech and all the way to expensive high tech models. You won’t find Aiwa brand these days, it almost went bankrupt and was acquired by Sony in 2002)

In between, we were introduced to something called Walkman – at first, by borrowing from well-to-do relatives and later, by collecting money to buy one our own, I bought one – my first portable radio many years later. It was an Aiwa brand and it was good and was helpful when I was doing my studies at home. My brother found a broken radio, took out it from the shell, found an old speaker and managed to get it work and we often hear it late at night – in particular Casey Kasem’s American’s Top 40 and another (I can’t recall the name) where the DJ reads listeners’ problems and then provide the relevant advises.

One fine day, we got a call from our uncle – he said he had something for us and will be dropping by to pass it to us. It was a radio but there was a built-in CD player. Apparently his friend was moving out and decided to pass his radio to my uncle. My uncle who already had a radio on his own decided to pass it to us. We were excited and immediately hooked up the radio and tested the CD player (the funny thing was we tried to do that at first without any CDs – it was dumb of us). So, after inspecting the player for some time, we decided that we need to have a CD to test and see if it is working or not. We then decided to ride to Brickfields to the many of music shops to go and buy a CD. At the shop, we realised that we are buying our own first CD – a minor history in the making – we were finally moving from cassettes to CDs – from analogue to digital. Out of the many hundred CDs in the music shop, we hunted for the one CD that we want to buy and bring back to test the player.

(I kind of miss them especially the premium TDK brand where the magnetic strip is in bluish in color. The non premium ones was brownish in color and often reproduced low quality sound)

We found a CD that contains the evergreen from the 70s – it was not cheap (it cost RM15) but thankfully we brought enough to buy it. We bought the CD and eagerly rushed back home to play the CD on the new player. It started to play but it was not long before it went dead. A couple more experiments, cleaning of the lenses and even shifting the player to a different place but nothing worked. The player was busted and we had an expensive CD without a player to play it on. Sadly we went back to cassettes but were determined to buy a good CD player when time permits. That time came, in several years later when I started to work and slowly had enough to buy a proper player – Aiwa that had 3 CD decks and can even play VCDs. It was not long before we had mp3 files to share – at first to be burned into CD as audio file and then later without any conversion to be played on mp3 player or car player or laptops by simply sticking a thumb drive on the USD port.

One thing we did not have in our “arsenal” all these year is a record player but I did encounter it only once and that too during a wedding. Someone had brought in the record player but did not have the right records but not for long. Someone dashed to his house and came back with a record which has a picture of a bald head on its cover.

(Image sources: http://www.alamodestuffblog.com, http://sarawakianaii.blogspot.com/, http://analogburners.com/, http://www.radiokmcity.cz, http://auldies.euweb.cz/ & http://www.audiokarma.org)

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Playing with Semantics


If you had blinked, they would have shoved it in your….oh, you get the idea

(Unbelievable! Sometimes you really, really need to read in-between the lines especially when it comes from the local politicians. Image source: http://rulingsnarl.wordpress.com/)

Never mind, just read these very slowly:-

Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil will step down as Minister of Women, Family and Community Development when her term as Dewan Negara member ends on April 8. The decision was made after giving it much thought, she said. “I want to do the right thing. I think for me now, the right thing is to leave my post as a Cabinet Minister. The time has come.

(Source)

And

Despite overwhelming opposition against the controversial Board of Computing Professionals Malaysia (BCPM) Bill, the government is still convinced it has support. More than two-thirds of the groups surveyed by the ministry did not approve of the bill. “The number of official feedbacks was 70, received from both individuals and organisations. 29% supported the proposed Bill, but nonetheless, this number may not reflect the overall segment of the ICT (information and communications technology) community,” the ministry said in a statement.

(Source)

Shahrizat said she is doing the right thing and she said that she did this after “giving it much thought”. But is she? If you have read it well in between the lines, she is not really resigning. Do you voluntarily tender your resignation on the day you retire from work or the day you are fired from work? Yes? No? If you do that, don’t you think you would look incredibly stupid? And it seems like that is the same case here.

You want to resign? You resign immediately – not 1 week from now and certainly not 3 weeks from now. In the political world, you don’t have to give the usual 1 month notice. So, with the end of her Senatorship, her Ministership ends automatically as well. It is crystal clear – even her former boss echoes the same thing:-

Former Wanita Umno head Tan Sri Rafidah feels that Datuk Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s announcement of stepping down as Family and Community Development Minister sounds hollow. “There is no issue of stepping down or resigning!” Rafidah said. “There is nothing to step down from as she is legally no longer a Minister on April 8. “She is not resigning on April 8, it is just that her Senatorship expires that day and her Ministerial post automatically lapses.” Calling Shahrizat’s quit announcement as a “sham of a statement”, Rafidah said resigning meant Shahrizat should quit immediately – while she was still a Senator.

(Source)

And for a person who was somehow linked to the mismanagement of public funds amounting to millions of Ringgit and refused to accept responsibility and refused to heed the calls to resign immediately, what rights they to use words like sacrifice and doing the right thing.

Then there is the news that the Government still expecting full support on its controversial Board of Computing Professionals Malaysia (BCPM) Bill but hold your horses there. Didn’t they also said that “more than two-thirds of the groups surveyed by the ministry did not approve of the bill”? With almost 71% opposition to the Bill from the industry, would you say that there is support? I don’t know – the official 70 feedback was too small to be considered as a valid size, I may agree and perhaps with a wider scope of response, things may be different. But with 71% opposition, one should not make say that they have the support to continue – the opposition is simply overwhelming.

But then again, when is playing with semantics, anything is possible…

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DKWTS


Sometimes, I “don’t know what to say”…

How much effort and time it is going to take for this driver to just reverse this small car and park it back properly? Hours? Minutes? Seconds?

No doubt there are other empty parking spots – so occupying 2 parking spots is not really a big issue – it does not really “bother” anyone else but that is not the point. The shot that I took last week or so is just an example.

There are others selfish acts that you will see on daily basis, on and off the road – double, triple parking creating traffic jams and obstructing other vehicles, abusing the emergency lane to a point that you could kill others, jumping queue the moment you see a traffic jam and in doing that, creating even more traffic jam, throwing rubbish wherever and whenever you like, etc.

Why can’t they take a moment out to think about others and do a quick run of some “what-if” scenarios? What if there is a lack of parking space later? What if an ambulance had to use the emergency lane? What if someone had an emergency but your car is blocking their car? What if…?

Think about it…

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Wayang Kulit before Elections


Folks, the signs of the general election are everywhere now – it’s anytime now

(You can hardly see this fine beautiful art in motion these days but in the political landscape, it is still alive and played well to the end. Image source: Wikipedia)

For one, there are plenty of feel-good news in the mainstream medias, highlight of the oppositions having trouble in Kedah (and other PR led states) and many more things to spin that the BN is better than PR. Just read some of the headlines in recent days and some of it may even make you want to puke:-

  • Johor is a role model in relation to the development of Chinese schools, said MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek. In comparison, Dr Chua said the community faced problems getting land for schools in Selangor.
  • Najib given an A+ for performance since last polls. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has performed well since the last general election, said Umno veteran Tun Daim Zainuddin.
  • MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek is regarded as a leader who has bravely spoken up for the interest of the community, said Umno veteran Tun Daim Zainuddin.
  • The action by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in apologising on behalf of Barisan Nasional (BN) for its mistakes, including its dismal performance in the 2008 general election, reflected the party’s humility, said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

There’s more and last weekend, Najib even meet up with some NGOs – just to say that “the NGOs, which are partners at the grassroots, and their leaders contribute their time and energy voluntarily to achieve their respective objectives, whether in championing for women’s right, persons with disabilities or protection for children”.

Hmm, interesting. Would he have said the same thing to the NGOs who had contributed their time and energy voluntarily for Bersih 2.0? What about Tenaganita where the founder Irene Fernandez in 1996 arrested for publishing false news and convicted (a conviction which in 2008 was overturned by the High Court).

With election looming even closer, expect the unexpected – roads full of potholes for months suddenly patched up, new roads laid, toll charges reduced, land titles distributed, citizenship suddenly granted, previously “missing-in-action” politicians visiting their constituencies and more. Yes, you will see more and more of the famed politicians coming down from the sky, making themselves holier than the holiest man around, just to get votes for the next elections.

To be fair, we see the same thing over at Pakatan’s side as well. So, depending on which type of media you are accessing, you will either be reading too much of BN’s spins or PR’s spins. But it does not really matters as to who you will support at the end of the day – it can be a BN or PR candidate, what really matters is that you have registered to vote and you exercise them by picking the very best to represent all Malaysians and the country whilst at the same time, showing the half-past six, corrupted and two-faced politicians to their early exit.

Najib have been going around apologizing (why now?) but the fact is we rather see a real action for the future than apology for the past, bygone actions.

With NFC mess and 1Care seemed to be quite down for now (but not over), there seems to be other mess creeping in. The proposed RM7.1 billion highway project is one and this seems to be one-notch over all those lopsided highway contracts of the past:-

Critics have also questioned the logic of awarding the project to Europlus which has no experience in highway construction. Although the original length of the West Coast Expressway was 215.8km, critics claim another 100km do not justify an additional RM4 billion.

“The A-G is also questioning why the concessionaire is getting 70 per cent of the toll revenue when it should be a 70:30 agreement, with the government getting 70 per cent since it is footing the cost of the project,” said another source.

Another issue is that Europlus president and chief executive Tan Sri Chan Ah Chye also controls Talam Corporation, which has a blemished record in property development because of a number of abandoned projects.

(Source)

Will this RM7.1 billion highway contract get approved in the end with the same lopsided terms and the rakyat once again are made suckers? Certainly we hope not – BN should be smarter by now.

Then we have Lynas – the proposed tax-free, rare-earth processing plant in Gebeng, Kuantan. There has been serious concern on the by-product of the processing plant which is radioactive in nature. Even more serious is the question why there is 12 years tax break for the plant and why BN politicians harping on the project.

Despite the promises to keep close watch on the enforcement of the law on the processing plant and assurances (yeah, we all know how well enforcement of the law can be in this country), we are certainly not taking the bait, more so with this news:-

The fact that Australia has refused to accept the waste by-product – thorium – produced by the Lynas operation tells something of the risks hidden in the rare earth. Australia will only mine the ore and ship it to Malaysia. Australia is safe. Malaysia will refine it and has to take care of the waste. Malaysia is not safe.

Where do you bury the waste? Call the prime minister and he will say the thorium will be dumped far from human settlements. Not a good answer. The waste can seep into the ground and eventually contaminate the water. Relocate the affected residents? Pointless. The radioactive gas called “radon” – which is released when the ore is crushed to remove thorium – will bring menacing clouds to the whole country on the wings of the winds. There is no place you can hide.

The rare earth plant is located only 2km away from a residential area (Gebeng) with a population of about 30,000 and some 25km from Kuantan. It is estimated that the combined population of the two towns – about 400,000 – will be put at risk from possible toxic leaks and emissions. Yet the government experts are cocksure that LAMP is totally safe.

One minister even had the audacity to advance his perverted logic that the waste water can safely be discharged into drains. The call for him to resign is fitting. He does not have the foggiest idea about the Lynas operation or understand the horrors that await the people who live in the vicinity of the refinery.

(Source)

Election is coming and if Najib wants to show that BN is better than anyone in governing the country and be fair to all its people irrespective of their political affiliates, they need to prove more than just fancy headlines on state controlled media. They must show that they have changed for good – the granting of a RM7.1 billion highway contract in dubious circumstances (despite public outcries in the past on lopsided highway contract) or making policies that undermines the people’s health and welfare is not.

In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the wayang kulit to be played out to the maximum in both sides – just keep a clear head and conscience and focus on what you need to do when the elections are finally held.

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