In the Year of the Monkey


Frankly speaking, I had Part 2 in mind (had half way drafted the content) but over time, the passion for one subject fades away and another subject grabs of one’s attention.

Read these first:-

 

(One good way to damage the sidewalls but modern tires is designed to absorb such sudden shocks)

Last month – on the month of the CNY – had proved to be a rather very expensive month for me as an owner of a car.

Firstly I accidentally scrapped my left back tire against the kerb and caused a small portion of the tire sidewall to be sliced off. I know for fact that whilst you can abuse the main tread and still drive safely, the same cannot be said for the sidewall. And it was painful because the tire was still new – barely a year since I last changed it. I took it to 2 different tire shops – the first one looked at it and said it was nothing to worry. The mechanic went back into the shop, brought back a bottle of super-glue and simply glued the sliced piece of the sidewall back into the tire. Feeling unconvinced, I went back to the shop where I first changed the tires a year ago. Unfortunately there were too many cars at the tire shop and the mechanics were busy. I managed to convince one of the them to check the tires. He came over and very lazily said it was nothing to worry as well.

But deep down, I was not happy or feeling safe, driving around with a sliced sidewall. As far I can remember, I never had damaged sidewalls before this and this was the first time I encountered this. It was time to do some goggling on the net and find out from the experts out there if I am feeling worried for nothing. Unfortunately for me, it looked like I had a very unique situation and generally most experts do not suggest driving around with a damaged sidewall (mine was not damaged but sliced). A few days had passed and for a moment I had forgotten that I was driving around with a sliced + patched up sidewall but that notion of not feeling safe kept bugging me, more so when I have my kids in the car. And one day, somewhere in a motoring forum, I finally read what I was looking for – someone had commented that no amount of money saved can come close to the safety of the people in the car.

That caused my mind to be made up but I had to wait for few more days as most of the shops were closed for CNY. But once the shops were opened, I headed to the nearest shop and talked to the owner. He too said that the tire were still driveable but the point is, the sidewall strength is compromised. So one need to be very careful when driving. I pondered on his statement – I do drive fast in the morning and I am the one who send my youngest to school in the morning. I could not imagine the carnage if the tire decides to blow out.

I decided to change the tires and considering the old tires were still new, the owner decided to give good discount for my new tires. But lesson well learned and I have now become more careful and patience when I am driving – another sidewall damage is the last thing I want.

It was not the only problem I had with the car and interestingly I only discovered this second problem by chance. My wife wanted me to check her car engine bay and to check the water level. Since I was doing that, I decided to check my car as well. When I opened the engine bay, I noticed that black oil splashed all over the place. I have seen this before – the engine gasket worn out and the engine oil was leaking. I had the same problem once with my old car. That probably explains the loss of power when I am driving to work in the morning.

Good thing was my car’s scheduled service was coming up and despite a last minute call to the service centre, I managed to get an early appointment at about 8.30 am. I don’t want the leak to continue and damage other components. At the service centre, despite making appointment at 8.30 am, I had to wait for other cars (from previous days) to be done first and only at 10.30 am, the car was brought into the service bay. I knew the mechanic from previous visits, so standing next to him whilst he worked on my car was not a problem and he was also explaining on what he was doing. The engine oil was indeed leaking and it was time to replace the sealants and cleanup of the leaked oil.

Another cost to the car so soon after I had changed the tires. It was another costly affair but once again, it was necessary. The service took almost 3 hours to complete (partly because they had to order some of the parts) and as I chatting away with the mechanic, he asked me if I had changed the timing belt. It was time to change based on the mileage but as I checked my car service records, I don’t see any indication of the manufacturer had changed the timing belt but I can guarantee that I have adhered to the service schedule to the dot.

And I was very tempted to allow the mechanic to proceed to change the timing belt. I decided to call the other service centre to check their records and was relieved when they confirmed that the timing belt had been changed and I had nothing else to worry. The car is back to it’s perfect state and it is great to be driving again, feeling safe and confident and with a set of good music in the background, the morning traffic was not so bad and somehow and surprisingly I can find a sense of calmness to allow the morning queue jumpers, road hoggers and other morons on the road to do what they do and don’t get angry so easily (unlike the previous time).

Two incidents involving the car and it burned my pockets very badly but the fact is that no amount of money can replace one’s life and that should be the case all the time.

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Being a Mean, Angry Hulk in 2016!


the-avengers-angry-hulk-smash-loki

(One of the best scene from the Avengers – Hulk vs a God and guess who won. I watched this scene probably hundred times and I never got bored with it. Image source: http://reactiongifs.me)

It was “bang” leaving 2015 – we all watched the new Star Wars movie and we all loved it from the start to the end.

But ever since the start of a “new” year, hardly been a time when I was not in an “angry” mode. Don’t get me wrong – I am not angry with anyone in particular but now schools have started and parents rushing to send their kids to school and then rush to work, way too many idiots have sprout out and had made things worse.

Take this morning example, there was 2 incidents of close calls between my car and another. One is after I had dropped off my kid to her kiddies, I was driving on straight road until a junction. An idiot turned to join the main lane but despite the idiot driving a small car, his turning radius unfortunately cut into my lane and that was without any warning. I high-beamed him and press my horn as well and quickly checked on my right and managed to avoid an accident with this idiot. Now here’s why I call this idiot an idiot – he was not happy I high-beamed him and started to tail-gate me. I was in disbelief but I kept my cool – I know he is not the first moron I am going to encounter this morning. After all, they do come in all shapes and sizes.

The next one happened after I wriggled out from the massive traffic jam just after the toll plaza and this was another junction. The idiot did not put up any indicators to join the main lane but somehow I was casual about it. But then it was a mistake. Just as he cut in front of me, I then noticed that the idiot was actually busy with his phone (or tab – I could not see but he was playing something on his lap). He drove slower, occasionally looking up, leaving a big gap in front and when came to another junction, he suddenly slammed his brakes and decided to change lane (the idiot has missed his turn as he was too busy with phone). It was clear that he was not focusing on his driving and the heavy traffic around him and busy with his phone. I managed to pass him and I was so pissed off that I wound down the window and showed him the finger – something I have not done for years now.

The first week of 2016 have passed and I already have turned into a mean, angry Hulk and I am not going to turn back into Bruce Banner anytime soon.

We all have walked into 2016 and despite the promise of a fresh start for the year, don’t you think there is still a very bitter feeling that nothing have changed and if we don’t do something about it, it is going to get worse?

Just look at the bullshits that had been thrown to us last year and we need to be angry when goods and services that is provided to us is way below our minimum expectations. Don’t you feel like telling the Hulk in you – “Hulk, Smash!!”?

The year 2016 has to be an Angry Year for all Malaysians and this anger at the end of the day must translate into real action (another Bersih-like street protests perhaps, registering and more importantly voting in the next election definitely, writing to spread the facts and educating others maybe, etc).

Close your eyes and think about it – there are plenty of reasons for being Angry in 2016. Let’s take a few, shall we? I know it is the tip of the iceberg!

We need to be angry on 1MDB for accumulating billions of debts through their nose and at the end of the day, sells off national assets to foreign companies. The Prime Minister and his minions are celebrating that 1MDB is in it’s way to recovery but that is not the point. Who or what caused the huge debts in the first place and why they have not been booked for high treason? Why we have not seen the fat guy in the news?

Arul Kanda has done it again. This time all the so called ‘success’ in selling off the national assets just to pay off the billions of loans they could not repay was quickly negated by their Chinese buyer merely 4 days after the ‘big announcement’. Again and again, 1MDB is exposed as a dishonest company whose words cannot be trusted.

But in the case of 1MDB, they asked people to be with them and to support them as they sell off all the crown jewels just to keep afloat. We would have expected 1MDB to pay off their debts via their profits. But at the end of the day, they had mismanaged their debts, caught themselves in financial distress, unable to fulfil all their original objectives when they set up the company, forced to admit that the company is a failure with the business model being too idealistic but, eventually had shamelessly telling the public that the process of selling off national assets just to pay off their debts is a success!

(Source)

Aren’t you angry on the rising cost of living in Malaysia? Whilst I am understand that the Government at the end of day need to remove some of the subsidies to have a more resilient economy and I support the removal of subsidies, the rush to do something and then once the arse get kicked, come out with the hands up and say that there is nothing one can do to fix the situation is simply tragic.

Still remember a Minister who said after GST, the price of goods will go down and it is best for the economy? Last year, I bought fruit juice in those small containers for RM1.20 (after the introduction of GST. It was RM0.90 before that) and moving into 2016, the lady behind the counter charged me RM1.50 for same brand fruit juice. Which Einstein said price of goods will go down after GST again?

The simplistic notion that GST is better than Sales and Service Tax (SST), all because the tax rate is lower is simply wrong. At 6%, GST may seem lower than the 10% SST, but GST is a multi-level tax, that taxes the whole supply chain whereas SST taxes the end-consumer alone.

With GST, everything is taxed unless specifically mentioned as being exempted, while SST only allows tax for items that are stated as taxable. See the difference?

GST has a wider reach, allowing the government to draw in more income at all levels of society.
The notion that all products would be cheaper by 4% is false, because this line of thinking does not take into account the multilevel nature of the GST taxation structure.

(Source)

And as if nothing worse had not happened, I was reading this in 2016:-

Malaysians should stop whining about their living costs, Umno’s Datuk Ahmad Maslan said today, adding that there was no country in the world where it would decrease.

The deputy minister of international trade and industry said Malaysians should instead change their attitude and learn to supplement their income to deal with a costlier lifestyle.

(Source)

Seriously, Sherlock?

Then again, I was not surprised – this was the same guy who asked the country to take 2nd job to supplement their income and cook their own food to avoid GST. Great and we have him in a Ministerial post.

And still remember the “donation” that some sick Arab donated to our Prime Minister for…err…for what again? Have they solved the mystery by now? There was one reason given one after another but all that did not hold water. Yup, one time they even tied up the Jews with DAP. Remember that joke?

And then in December last year, WSJ (yes the same WSJ that the Prime Minister said is going to sue their pants off  – many moons have passed and he have yet to sue them) reported this:-

The funds, Mr. Najib said, weren’t used for his personal enrichment. Instead, they were channelled to politicians or into spending on projects aimed at helping the ruling party win elections in 2013, he said, according to a cabinet minister who was present.

“I took the money to spend for us,” the minister quoted Mr. Najib as saying.

It still isn’t clear where the $700 million came from or where it went. But a six-month Wall Street Journal examination revealed that public entities spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a massive patronage machine to help ensure Mr. Najib’s United Malays National Organization stayed in power. The payments, while legal, represented a new milestone in Malaysia’s freewheeling electoral system, according to ruling-party officials.

Mr. Najib declined multiple interview requests. He has denied wrongdoing or taking money for personal gain, while defending 1MDB spending as good for Malaysia. He hasn’t explained where the $700 million in his accounts came from or how it was used.

Senior UMNO politicians have said the money was a political donation from an unnamed Middle East donor. Malaysia’s anticorruption agency has defended Mr. Najib’s right to use personal accounts for political transfers, which isn’t illegal under Malaysian law.

(Source)

To be frank, the fact that the source of the money remains a mystery itself poses a great risk to the national security. If it is from a Middle East donor as what the politicians have been saying, what is the ulterior motive for this? The Middle East is not exactly a peaceful place to be in right now. So what we suppose to in return for the very generous favor? But then again, look at the other possible source – one from WSJ – that the money came from taxpayers via various organisations linked to 1MDB and it went into a politician’s personal accounts. Doesn’t that smacks the notion of corruption, misuse of money, mismanagement, blah, blah right in the face? And yet, there are people in this country who had accepted this and sleeping well at nights. Strange indeed.

So doesn’t make a lot of sense that Malaysians in general should be and remained angry at the nonsense that had been thrown at us last year? One idiotic statement from a politician – “Hulk! Smash!!”. One more lavish expenditure by the politicians and their wives – “Hulk! Smash!!”. Any attempt to sweep the fact of corruption under the carpet – “Hulk! Smash!!”. And this anger must persist until the next general elections.

After all, Malaysians are known to forget things after some time. Throw a silly bone like a cross on a roof of house and the whole country forgets the USD700 million that went into a politician’s pockets. Race and religion remains our Achilles’ heel, our curse, our fate and all you need for some moron to raise something racial or religions, the rest of the country drops their pants and runs in the wrong direction. Wake up people – there are issues bigger than a design that looks like a cross. So remain mean and angry and accept nothing less than high quality goods and services and strive to vote out the people who are running the show for their self benefit and not the country.

And remember – “Hulk! Smash!!”

Do You Listen To Your Car?


Screw on tire2

(The thing that you do not want to see sticking out from your tires)

Before I start, I was not meaning “listen” in this sense

Couple weeks ago, we suppose to make a trip to Kuantan to visit an elderly aunty who was not feeling well. And to ensure we don’t inconvenient the relatives (who I know don’t have much space in their house), I even booked hotel rooms for the family. It was long holidays too, so I decided to set the time to depart from the house during the non-peak hours so that we will reach Kuantan without getting caught in the massive traffic that was expected. But at the last minute, I could not go due to an “emergency” at work place and we had to get a replacement for me (since I was the designated driver for the trip). We looked around but everyone already had plans for the long holidays.

In the end, my sister volunteered (or rather was strongly persuaded to take over). At first she said wanted to use her car instead of mine for the journey which made sense but after a second thought, she decided to use my car instead. After all it was more spacious and more comfortable for that long journey to Kuantan. The main reason why she decided to use my car was because she said she had to pump air into her back right tire on weekly basis and she suspected something not right with the tire. But she has yet to bring the car to the mechanic for a proper check-up. So, not wanting to take any risk of the whole family stranded by the road side on their way to Kuantan or worse, losing control of the car near Genting, it was better to take my car instead – after all, it had 4 brand new tires and the car just completed its periodic service and I had high confidence on the reliability of the car.

With my car not available, I decided to use my sister’s car for work instead and almost immediately I noticed a loud sound from the back tires. I had to pull over and check. And when I pump air into the tires, the right back tire was indeed had much less air than the rest of the tires (for normal wear and tear, the air should be reducing almost the same pace on all tires. If one reduces more than the rest, it’s time to bring the tire for check-up). I know there was a leak somewhere but I could not pin point the source. Much later, when my sister took the car for service, there was indeed a leak from an old puncture. Good thing we made the correct decision by not using her car for the long trip.

Then last night as I was driving past the toll booth, there was a faint “thud, thud, thud” sound. I rolled down the window and as I drive past the road barriers (where the sound would bounce back and it will clearer to hear), there was no mistake of the “thud, thud, thud” sound. The last time I heard that sound was when there a screw firmly lodged on the tire.

Now I am hearing the same sound again. I just shook my head in despair and slowly moved to the left lane. No point being a “hero” on the highway with one flat tire. I kept driving slower until I cleared the highway and entered a commercial area. I parked my car and took a quick look at the tires. I did not notice any screws or nails but then again, checking by the road side with poor light conditions did not help either. The sound was still there. So to minimize the option of having a flat tire before I reach home (where I can jack up the car and have a better look), I drove to the nearest petrol station and pumped air on all tires. One thing I noticed was that there was no drastic reduction of air. That was strange because if there was a screw or nail, there would have a considerable lost of air to one of the tires compared to the other tires. Something was not right. In fact the tire that I thought had a puncture had almost nil lost of air.

Not taking any chances, I continued driving slow, taking the back lanes where there was a less traffic and where it is easier to stop by the road side. It took longer time than usual but I somehow made it home in one piece. First thing to do after I had parked the car in the porch was to take the torchlight and make a more thorough inspection of the tires. Then I found the culprit – a small stone wedged in the middle of the tire and that made sense. I had the same problem when I changed the tires to Michelin couple years ago as well. It has a wider grooves than other make – it makes an excellent tires on wet roads but it easily picks up small stones. Some how I don’t have the same problem with Continental or Goodyear tires. This is the last time I am going to use the Michelin tires. And to be sure, I drove around the residential area after removing the stone and there was no longer the “thud, thud, thud” sound.

And over the years, there have been many types of sounds emitting from the car and I have made mental note of what sound means what problem.

Once there was an intermittent sound of something knocking against the interior of the car. I stopped the car and double checked and noticed that the passenger side seat belt was twisted and the metal part of the belt was hitting against the side of the car whenever I am changing lanes. Low tire pressure usually give a growling sound and although it is not a bad thing but it still dangerous to drive around (especially when cornering) and obviously it is fuel inefficient. And there is the usual “trrrrrr” sound which comes from the USB stick – the cover of the USB stick vibrates and makes that “trrrrrr” sound. And in my previous car, there is a sound of plastic being flipped around and that comes from the plastic covering inside the doors and the sound comes from the sound vibration of the speakers. Another is the whining sound when closing the doors – this indicates lack of lubrication on the door. And if one drives the older Proton models, the squeaky noise is part and parcel of driving a national car. The newer models don’t have that problem to some extent – they are well built and the NVH insulation is quite good.

The thing is, I make a point to listen to the car every morning as I am leaving the house and does the same before I leave the office. The sound of the engine, the sound of the tires and any other sound that is out of place. If something sounds out of place, always stop and check. The last thing you want to do is to have trouble when you are flying at 110 km/h. And early morning is the best time to listen to the sounds – it quiet (which makes it easier to listen things) and there are no other cars and if there are any strange sounds, home is just nearby. The sound that I fear the most is of course the “thud, thud, thud” sound. It has caused me more headaches than any “other sounds” over the years.

There are times when the car actually talks to you and if you listen to it closely, you can understand it’s language. And here’s a quick guide for more sounds that could indicate problems to your car (another is here). That takes the surprise element out from the equation and makes driving a bit more safer and economical. Well, do you do the same? Have you listened to your car lately?

Off to a Funeral


mas

(No matter what, Malaysia remains where my heart and soul lies at the end of the day. And nothing kicks starts the notion than flying on the national carrier whilst having hot delicious nasi lemak for company)

Somehow it was great to fly back on MAS – for a couple of things.

One, it was good to hear safety announcements in Bahasa Malaysia again. Two, they served nasi lemak for lunch which was a sure sign that we are heading back home. And one of the first things that I did once I am back home was to catch up on my sleep. I could not help it – I even doze off whilst I was having conversations. Having a weekend and then thereafter the CNY holidays was just perfect to catch up on a break.

So I thought…

I was made “aware” of a distinct relative who was admitted to hospital in a serious condition. And last weekend, the dreadful news came. The relative had passed away. Being a distinct relative, there was always an option for me to simply opt out from going for the funeral. Further, the funeral was taking place in Johore – a place that was considered “quite far away” to drive (although it was almost the same distance and time to drive up North). The one that nails the urge for not going is that the funeral was taking place on a Sunday (I was working on Monday)

But there was 3 reasons that was prompted me to attend this funeral. First, despite it being a funeral of a distinct relative but he was somehow linked with other relatives who are closer to me. And there will be questions raised in the next family gathering. I had some obligations to them. Second, my father in law who is staying up in Taiping is taking the bus (yes the bus – we did not know, otherwise we would have picked him up half way) all the way to Johore for the same funeral. If he can take the bus and travel for 8-9 hours, then what’s stopping us with cars half way through from attending the same funeral, right? And third, the deceased had the same (well, almost) age as me (and brother in laws). Somehow, that made me to decided to go for the funeral.

It was time for planning for the one day trip to South and it was similar to the trip to the East Coast but with a small difference. We going to use my car as I am going to do most of the driving. It was a good opportunity to test the new tires. And to ensure it is going to be a fast drive down South and back, we decided to leave the ladies & kids at home (we already anticipating massive traffic jam on the way back, so it is best to leave the ladies and the children at home). In the car, would be me and 2 of my brother in laws (one is the substitute driver and another is our navigator – he had been to the house once)

The plan was finalised on Saturday evening (it took some time on the phone with various parties to finalise who was going and who was staying). My brother in law would pick up his wife and his daughter and another of the brother in law in the morning and meet me at my house. He would leave his car and drop his wife & daughter at my house (my wife and my kids will be around to keep them company).

map

(The trip down South – frankly the time and distance was similar to the trip up North but somehow it was less tiring. Perhaps it was because it has been almost 15 years since I made the trip to South)

We suppose to leave from my house (since it is nearer to the South compared to our 2 houses) at 5 am. I woke up at 4 am and by 4.45 am was all ready for the trip. I had even double checked the car and parked it outside the porch so that my brother in law can park his car easily. I also set the GPS coordinates and locked in the destination. At 5 am, he was no where to be seen. He finally showed up at almost 5.30 am – it was still good as my deadline remained 6 am (assuming we have a 4 hours to drive). The three guys finally left at about 5.45 am.

The journey to Johore was rather a pleasant one and surprisingly is not tiring compared to the trip up North. I hardly fell asleep along the way despite waking up earlier than usual. My new tires, Michelin XM2 was holding well and was quiet all the way. I had checked the route before hand (thanks, Google Map) and had decided to only use the GPS once we had reached the exit of the highway. No speeding on the highway and I maintain to the left lanes whenever possible. We made 1 pit stop at Pagoh for breakfast (a sorry looking nasi lemak with un-reasonable price was waiting for us). Quick breakfast and we were back on the highway and there was still more than 100 km to go before we reach the deceased’s house. Traffic was still sparse and it remained a smooth drive. It took us less than 4 hours including pit stop.

Using GPS is a must when venturing into an unfamiliar place and it was the case here too when we reached the house without getting lost. An uncle of mine who was not using GPS, got lost 4 times in the same area before finally finding the house. Fearing that there will be a big crowd later, we parked the car on the main road, some distance from the house but where I can still see the car from the house. We noticed a large tent outside the house which affirmed that we are at the right place. No familiar faces at the tent in front of the house, so we walked into the house. The coffin was in the middle of the house, surrounded by grieving family members. We said our condolences and prayers and headed back to the tent outside the house. The smell of chemicals inside the house was overwhelming and I started to feel dizzy.

Sitting under the tent outside the house with my brother in law (my father in law joined us soon after – he was tired after an almost 9 hours of traveling by bus) and with a fresh breeze, my head started to get clearer. Not many people have arrived despite the scheduled time for the deceased body was suppose to be taken to the crematorium. It suppose to be at 10 am but soon 10.30 am and 11 am had passed and soon it was showing 11.30 am. I looked at my brother in law and he looked at me – we suppose to leave at 11.30 am if we are going to make it home early. My brother in law went and talked to one of the relatives on the “status” – apparently there were some delay and we have to wait at least another 2 hours for the final ceremony (it actually took longer than that). I don’t blame them – no one prepares for a funeral upfront.

Wait for another 2 hours?

Well, that was our cue to take a “walk” to our car and head back home. Since there was a funeral, there were no “good-byes” and “see you later”. We quietly walked to my car – good thing it was parked far away and near to the house, otherwise our “early” departure would have been very noticeable.

traffic

(When things slows down on the highway, just make sure the car has enough petrol and the bladder empty. It was good that the traffic was moving despite the heavy traffic)

We had to head back to the highway, so GPS came in handy again. But before we do that, a short pit stop for fuel and use of bathroom was necessary. As I drove out, I misjudged a junction and took the wrong road. Thankfully the GPS was quick to recompute the route and in fact came out with a route with less traffic (so we could “fly” towards the highway). Soon, we found the toll plaza but it was not the NS toll booth (we mistakenly thought it was the NS toll). It was actually the 2nd Link Expressway. There was no lane for cash but instead all need Touch N Go for access. The problem was I left my TNG card at home and my brother in law did not have one either. Cars started to pill up behind us and when I thought we had a big problem at hand, I remember I had the Tesco loyalty card in my wallet and that came with TNG feature. It even had enough credit for the toll. We were saved!!

It was not long before we reached the actual NS highway and initially the traffic flow was good. We managed to clock 110 km/h most of the route. But once reached Negri Sembilan, the traffic started to crawl. R&R was packed full with cars as well. We made our pit stop at Ayer Keroh for fuel and a very late lunch. We could not find a parking spot but at further up front, we managed to find a spot and had an excellent nasi lemak with a good portion of chicken. There was long queue at the petrol station as well. Then it was back to the crawl on the highway. We finally reached home almost at 8 pm and despite being stuck with traffic jam most of the way (no thanks to road works and a couple of broke down express buses).

Despite I drove to and fro such a distance, all in one day, surprisingly I was not feeling that tired or sleepy. And after the late evening shower, I was still feeling fresh to drive to restaurant near the house for dinner.

Ending The Year 2014


najib golf

(Not everyone can be the PM – very, very hard at “work” overseas. Some had said that there is nothing wrong for a leader to take a break. Well, that is correct but not when the country is seeing one of the worst floods around. The big mamma still on holiday, its so seems – no one had seen her wading through the high water in downtown Kota Bahru. Image source)

Before I go further, my deepest condolences to the family and friends on those were abroad the Air Asia Flight QZ8501 – the 3rd tragedy in the year that involves a Malaysian linked airline. I don’t know why Malaysians had to face this – not once or twice but three times in the same year. MH370 is still missing and MH17 just had to be at the wrong place, wrong time and QZ8501 must have met mother of all storms. One just hope that there will be some kind of closure in 2015.

Heartfelt prayers also goes to the flood victims in the East Coast (and also in the West Coast now) that saw one of the worst flooding since 1971. Prepping is no longer a joke – with such flooding is due to be a yearly affair, we need to look at prepping in a wider scope. Management of the rivers and coastal areas would be critical aspect of prepping from the Government. Citizens on the other hand should look into making their homes to be flood-proof or have an alternative place to stay and of course with proper stockpile of food and water. Stories piling up on instances of people running out of food and water and the situation looks hopelessly lost. Nonetheless it is a grave reminder of things to come. The more we put off prepping for such instances in the coming years, the more painful it is going to be. It is a reminder to me too as I have been focusing less on prepping in 2014.

My own 3 weeks break came and went without a blink and I will be soon be traveling again on work assignment. My flight back to Malaysia was scheduled to take off at about 8 plus in the morning and knowing that I need to be in the airport at least 2 hours before boarding and it is about 1 hour plus from the apartment to the airport, I booked a taxi to fetch me from the apartment at about 4 in the morning (that taxi driver came and waited for me since 3.30 am!). With the taxi booked and all luggage packed for the trip back home by 9 pm, I contemplated of taking a short nap. The night was still early and I was sure that I could woke up at 3 am. Just when I was to jump on the bed, I had a dreadful vision – the alarm ringing but I casually switching it off and going to bed, only to wake up at 10 am in the morning. I did not want to miss my flight, so I made a big pot of coffee and watched movie on TV. Good thing I was not feeling that sleepy and hours went off fast. A good shower in the wee morning ensure I was awake as I took the luggage down to the awaiting taxi.

I must have dozed off in the taxi – there was a bump and when I opened my eyes, we were just arriving at the airport. Another long wait for the airport for the check-in and breakfast but at least I was at the airport.

wolf

(Although I was disappointed on missing some of the titles that I saw in the previous year, this should be enough to last me until the next Big Bad Wolf Book sale)

When I came back home, instead of the usual nap I often take whenever I come back from overseas, I had to go off and do some work for the house (haircut however came first before anything else). My kids were excited to see me back, so they hardly allowed me to catch up on my sleep. Then at night, we went to the Big Bad Wolf Book Sales and I spent almost RM300 on books (this time around, my choice of books was less compared to the stack that my son had). It was however worth the trip – RM300 bought us almost 3 boxes of new books.

We came back late and decided against driving off to north in the morning (you see, I had promised my son to take him to the water park in Ipoh for the holidays). We decided to go after lunch which was not so bad as the traffic by then was fine and we did not have to slow down in many areas. The only “funny” thing that happened was my car door automatically unlocks itself and locks again when I press the brakes. By the time, we reached the in-laws house to stay for the holidays, it was already evening and my relatives were coming back from work. We stayed up late again, chit-chatting and watching movie. I was already feeling like zombie when I finally went to the bed (I was given a room of my own) but had a very disruptive sleep because I had to wake up a few times at night going to the bathroom (had too much to drink).

In the morning, the weather was great but I had something to do first – go and fix my car central locking. Still remember when it unlocks and locks itself when I was driving? It became worse – I found the car unlock when I went to check on it in the morning. That means if I lock up the car, a few minutes later, it will unlock itself and that is all that was needed for a car jacker to have an easy access to my car. I called the service centre and good thing was they had few cars on service schedule in the morning. The mechanic “managed” to fix it within 30 minutes – loose wiring they said. Happily I took the car out and barely 100 meters from the service centre, the problem started again. I drove back and this time, the mechanic followed me in the car. It was apparent then, that he had not fixed the problem. He took it back to check and this time, it took him almost 2 hours (including replacing the whole central locking mechanism) to get it right. Almost half day had gone by then. I went back and seeing that it was too late to go to water park, I decided on something that I have been holding back for past few days – catching up on my sleep.

rain

(I think this is Kuala Kangsar after our lunch in Chemor – we made a pit stop here because there is a famous bakery here where we wanted to buy bread. Situation was not ideal to bring the kids out for the fun day at the water park)

The next day, when we suppose to go to the water park, it started to rain cats and dogs. The situation looked gloomy. Even my son did not want to go out as the weather was very bad. My father in law however decided that we go for a lunch at one place he knows in Chemor (very near to the water park that we wanted to go). It was raining when we left the house, it was raining when we were on the highway and it was getting even worse when we drove into Chemor town. After parking the car at the back of the a small restaurant (it looked quite old as well) and struggling with the umbrella in the heavy downpour, we managed to get the 2 car load of people in front of the restaurant. We walked in and the atmosphere immediately changed. Inside was very modern and roomier. Lunch was extraordinary with my son ordering spicy crab curry and a good load of crabs to go with it. It was still raining when we left the restaurant and decided to take the old road instead of the highway and drive through the places where my grandmother used to live.

The so-called break from work at my in-laws place ended up with a bang (literally). We head back home on a working day, hoping that the highway would be free (and it was indeed) and the ride would be more pleasant. Nearing KL, things started to slow as we caught with the on-going road works with 2 of the 3 lanes closed. The traffic started to move slower and at some places, it was almost bumper to bumper. It was just after lunch time too and things was getting were warm in the car (despite the air-cond high). That coupled with the crawling traffic started to show its ugly side – I was falling asleep.

Often there was enough space in between for me to recover and stop the car but this time, there was none. Just when I thought of stopping at the next R&R, I must have dozed off as the next thing I realised is that I have bumped into the car in front. For moment, I was blur on what had happened. The driver came out and started looking at his bumper. Fearing the worst, I came out from the car, expecting to confront an angry driver but instead the man looked at me and said that there was no damaged and extended his hands. I shook his hand, said sorry and went back to my car. Rest assured, I stayed wide awake the rest of the journey but I still stopped at the next R&R for a break (and also to check if there is any other hidden damage). Imagine if I had dozed off when the traffic was fast (and me traveling at 110 km/h) and rear-ended a truck instead. I must have done some good karma to walk away from this with nothing more than a word of “sorry” and an handshake.

2014 had not been a very good year but it has not been a very bad one too. I had good times catching up with my primary school mates – some not met for almost 30 plus years recently. Blogging had taken a very back seat this year with me hardly having the time (but not ideas – thanks to travels and good old Malaysian politicians) to blog. I traveled to a new country this year, met good friends there, enjoyed the food & culture and hope to go to another in 2015. Work compounded this year compared in 2013 but that was expected – when one moves up in the organization structure, there will be more responsibilities, tasks and plans.

Happy New Year everyone and I will see you next year!

Hong Kong: The Home of Efficient Public Transport


Read these first:-

Kuala_Lumpur_LRT_Monorail_Map

(Comparatively Malaysia is not far from a very efficient public transportation system and with further extension to the LRT lines and the upcoming MRT lines, one hopes that it will close the gap in the current system. Perhaps we can learn one or two things from Hong Kong.  Image source: Google)

Well, I don’t know it made one of the best first impressions – perhaps it is because I have not taken a public bus in Malaysia in a very long, long time (and I still don’t) and seeing an empty, new comfortable bus made me in love with the idea of taking the bus again or perhaps because of this:-

Hong Kong has a highly developed and sophisticated transport network, encompassing both public and private transport. Over 90% of the daily journeys are on public transport, making it the highest rate in the world

(Source)

I just came back from a short trip to Hong Kong and one of the thing that catches my eyes when we had touched down and exited the airport is their public transportation.

The Hong Kong International Airport itself was impressive although it was not in anyway better than our own KLIA (it was way too crowded compared to KLIA too). The airport is well connected by train (which includes their superb Airport Express), buses and taxis, very similar to KLIA. Instead of taking the obvious option of using the Airport Express, we opted to take the Airport bus instead to the city. One of the colleague had a hotel reservation made and we could get off nearer to the hotel if we take the bus instead of the train. And it was cheap too – HKD40 for one way trip to the city centre (the Airport Express using the Octopus card costs HKD100 per trip).

We were tired and despite taking the bus, it was very comfortable and we managed to catch a short nap along the way. From the bus stop, we had to walk to the hotel and after one of my colleague had checked in to a hotel, the rest of us decided to take the taxi to our apartment (another 30 minutes ride and cost us HKD41 for 3 of us and a couple of large luggage bags). The driver hardly spoke English but he understood where we wanted to go but what struck me immediately was there was 3 seats at the front which was not a norm but I guess no one dares to sit on the middle seat. Not when the taxi driver was wearing shorts.

Walking around the apartment residential area is a breeze and it was a good chance for me to lose some baggage around my waist. And we did walked a lot here – good thing I brought my sports shoe along. There is no any MTR (mass transit railway) station near the place that we were staying but they do have others namely bus, tram and of course, the iconic red color taxi.

bus2

bus1

(Our option for public transport – the double deck buses. We took one from the Airport and so is the inter-city buses)

To move around, I would strongly suggest to get the Octopus card (we got ours at the airport and used it for the bus from the airport). Same thing with our Touch n Go card here and one can recharge the card at the numerous 7-eleven shops for free. The bus station is just about 100 metres from the apartment. The tram station is a bit further and we decided not to take the tram in the morning. It is slower and does not have air conditioner. The bus on the other hand is far more comfortable and it is very, very efficient. And since the bus stop near the apartment is just the 3rd bus stop on the bus lane, we always can find an empty seat during the rush hours.

And here’s one reason I respect the Hong Kong commuters – they queue up to take the bus. Yes, there is a queue line on the pavement to ensure everyone know where to queue up but I have also seen the same discipline of queuing up when they are waiting for the elevator. Something that is grossly missing back here in Malaysia. Here, even before the people come out from the lift, those who were waiting for the elevator would simply rush in. They won’t even queue up but instead crowd around the entrance. Same un-civic attitude can be seen when one waits for the bus. The crowd would rush in and would be pushing and pulling to get onto the bus. Not a big surprise considering how they jump queue on the road. Nope, not here. Everyone waits and everyone gives way.

And Malaysia should introduce double deck buses – it’s way too cool than the single deck Intrakota buses we have in Malaysia (it is even worse with the old crappy, dirty Metro bus). It takes more passengers too. I have experienced taking the double decker bus when I was in Singapore but it was not a good experience, mainly because it is usually full by the time it reaches our bus stop. The top deck is only allowed for sitting passengers and the driver that I saw in Hong Kong made sure of it (he monitors via a CCTV).

And they always say that public transport is a money losing business and that it is why it is run by the Government. But back in Hong Kong, it seems to be a different story:-

Is this problem intractable? Not exactly. Take Hong Kong for example: The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corporation, which manages the subway and bus systems on Hong Kong Island and, since 2006, in the northern part of Kowloon, is considered the gold standard for transit management worldwide.

In 2012, the MTR produced revenue of 36 billion Hong Kong Dollars (about U.S $5 billion)—turning a profit of $2 billion in the process. Most impressively, the farebox recovery ratio (the percentage of operational costs covered by fares) for the system was 185 percent, the world’s highest. Worldwide, these numbers are practically unheard of—the next highest urban ratio, Singapore, is a mere 125 percent.

(Source)

Which is true if you consider on how the transportation system is integrated in Hong Kong – there have a number of major terminals where the MTR, bus and taxi have their main stations in one place. This is something we need to consider very seriously here in Malaysia.

As I had said, we rarely took the MTR – there is none near to our apartment and the one we took was when we were going to the Times Square for shopping. So, when it was time to fly back, I decided to take the taxi to the Hong Kong station (where the Airport Express train departs). It was a short ride and the driver dropped me off at the entrance. The Hong Kong station is located quite close to the Central MTR station and allows passengers (for certain airlines) to check-in (similar to facilities in KL Sentral). I already checked in online and since I only had a small luggage bag to bring along, I proceeded to the escalators to the platform. The Airport Express is a dedicated train from the city to the airport very much the same as our KLIA Express and it is indeed fast, clean and comfortable. It costs HKD100 for one way trip from the Hong Kong station to the airport.

Out from the MTR station, it was just a short walk to the check in and baggage drop counters. It was a nice thing although I experienced the same queues and stone faced officials at the immigration counters. Sometimes certain things never changes.

Toll Hike, Ha, Ha, Ha!


.

Go ahead, clear your mind and a have good laugh.

Hopefully it will soften the pain that you feel deep down whenever you read Ministers’ statements in this country. I don’t know if they read their own statements before they read it aloud in public. It just reinforces the notion that we need to change the Government from the top, hopefully at least it will wake some people up and get them to use their mind before talking.

Well, take a deep breath and read this:-

The government has decided not to raise toll rates in 2014 to help Malaysians face rising prices. Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government will have to pay over RM400 million in compensation to concessionaires as per agreement with them.

The government is also considering renegotiation of toll concession agreements after a thorough review of existing concessions.

Muhyiddin said the government made the decision not to raise tolls in the light of increasing criticism from various quarters over the rising cost of living, with hikes in prices of goods and subsidy cuts.

(Source)

Reading Muhyiddin’s statement that the government is “considering” renegotiation of toll concession agreements and the government made the decision not to raise tolls “in the light of increasing criticism” from various quarters almost caused me to choke on my breakfast yesterday. Muhyiddin was talking like the issue of toll hike crop up only yesterday and the RM400 million paid came from his own pockets, sigh. Very caring indeed. The government can always find way to screw the taxpayers on way or another and in this case, there is no difference.

The call for the government to renegotiate the toll concession agreements is not a new one. Pakatan had called for the same thing way back in 2009 and a good number of years had lapsed since then and only now they want to “renegotiation of toll concession agreements”? Sorry, consider to renegotiate. Hoooo, that’s scary. But then again, what the fuck they have been doing for the past few years when they could have done all their studies (with their highly paid consultants) and renegotiate the toll agreements when the toll was cheaper back then? Had their head in the ground and told themselves that everything is alright? They could have save millions of taxpayers money and the road users would have been a lot more happy with a prospect of cheaper toll even when they are stuck in mega traffic jam on the so-called highways.

And assuming this is true, I mean that they are finally going to do something about it instead farting loud in the wind (as usual), another 5 years would have lapsed and the toll concessionaires would still have made their millions either from toll hike or huge compensations. So trust me when you hear that the government is considering renegotiation of toll concession agreements, it will remain in the “considering” phase and no real action would take place (unless until we change the Government).

The other part of the morning joke by DPM was this – that government made the decision not to raise tolls in the light of increasing criticism from various quarters over the rising cost of living. Wow, how grateful we are but hold on, you mean to say that the government actually had a choice on this matter? I thought another Minister of yours said that they have no choice on this matter despite the same “criticism from various quarters over the rising cost of living”?

The toll rate hike next year is unavoidable as it is an express condition in the concession agreement between the government and highway concession companies, according to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Wahid Omar

(Source)

Oh wait, now I get it – the government made the decision not to raise tolls (due to criticism) but they still whack the people with huge compensations. Something is not right. You are not taking money from people who actually use the highways but then take money from all people who may or not use the highway and pay the compensation. And come up to the stage and say that you have been very caring.

Anyway, have you watched the video and laughed? If that does not make you laugh, I am sure that the statement from DPM above will. There is no toll hike but the taxpayers get screwed anyway with RM400 million bill and who knows what will happen after the Kajang by-election fiasco had ended. After all, didn’t they promised to reduce the toll before the last general election but right after the general election, they threw that idea out of the window and said that they have no choice but had to raise the toll?

Have a good weekend ahead and remember this in the next general elections.