Wiper Scare & Kapchai Ban


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wipers-signs-of-wear

(Things to keep an eye for – failing wipers. Image source: http://www.kempenfeltauto.com)

It has been raining cats and dogs lately…

It was raining heavily when I went to work one fine morning – I predicted an increased traffic jam due to the rain and a couple of morons speeding and changing lane without any indicators during the heavy rain. I switched on the wipers and immediately I noticed something not right. It was squeaking and as the wipers goes up and down, it started to bend considerably. Damn, something indeed was not right. And half way as I was nearing my kid’s school, one of the wiper bent and dislocated. I now left with only one working wiper and it also started to bend. I know that wipers was due for a replacement but I did not expect it to be too soon and too obvious. It was still raining but I could not use the wipers – so I slowed down and drive with extra caution. It was too late to drive back home as I was nearer office by then and I managed to reach it without any incidents.

Lunch time, I had only 1 mission – to get the wipers replaced. I headed to a workshop near to office and picked silicon blade wipers. It was not cheap though but at least the wipers were new. The mechanic was fast to replace them but he took the wrong size as when I tried the wipers on, both wipers got entangled and got stuck. He quickly replaced the wiper to a lower size and it looked well (it did not get entangled this time around).

That evening, it started to rain again but this time, I was very confident – I had brand new wipers. I happily switched it on but then noticed, it was not wiping effectively – as if the blades was not touching the windscreen in some places. There was a loud squeaking noise as well. I was pissed off and was cursing the workshop for selling a defective wipers. I intended to reach home first and then head to the nearest hypermarket to buy new wipers (I was ready to go to workshop next day to make noise and get my money back). And as I was driving back in the heavy rain, only using the wipers when I had no other choice, I noticed that some kind of strip hanging from the tip of the wiper. Was the silicon coming apart? I could not see for sure.

I reached home and in the rain, I checked the wipers and soon felt relived – the mechanic who replaced the wipers had forgotten to strip away the protective plastic from the silicon blades and that was what making the squeaking noise and unlevel wiping. Once the plastic strip was removed, I had a very effective and silent wipers. Phew!

Anyway, that ended rather nicely – it has not been a cheap month for me when it came to fixing my car to the best level of driving. I have a phobia whenever I hear some funny noise from the car these days, especially after the accident last year.

(One reason to ban kapchais in this country. Image source: http://meuzangelo.blogspot.com)

Recently there was a very interesting piece of development when it comes to pesky motorcyclists in this country:-

The government is considering banning underbone motorcycles, known locally as the “kap chai”, from entering Kuala Lumpur as part of its effort to reduce carbon emission.

Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Mansor was quoted by The Star as saying that the government may prohibit these motorcycles and other commuters from driving into the capital city once public transportation reaches a more reasonable price.

“During the day, the population (in the city) increases to between five and seven million because workers commute to work,” he said at the launch of the Kibar Bendera Wilayah Persekutuan campaign on Sunday (Jan 15).

“Many cities do not allow ‘kap chai’ to come in. But studies have shown that a lot of people still need them because they are poor and can’t afford [other modes of transport] as their salaries are low.

“Once cheaper public transport is available, we will be looking at the possibility of not allowing ‘kap chai’ motorcycles into the city,” he added

(Source)

And of course, there was immediate opposition to that idea:-

The government’s proposal to ban underbone motorcycles in Kuala Lumpur could burden low-income earners who are already under pressure from rising living costs, employers’ and workers’ groups warned.

Criticising the idea as “ridiculous”, associations like The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) and the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said the proposal would push traveling costs up for the bottom 40 per cent of income earners, most of whom rely on small capacity bikes to commute to work.

They said fuel costs for the bike, popularly called “kap chais”, are much cheaper than current public transportation fees, which can go up to RM10 a day. In contrast, someone who uses a “kap chai” will only need to pay RM7 for a full tank of fuel, which can give the bike at least five days worth of travelling.

(Source)

And it seems that there was a major impact on the businesses as well:-

Putrajaya’s proposal to bar the kapcai (small motorcycles) from entering Kuala Lumpur will cause a significant decline in the sale of motorcycles in the country.

“The ban will have negative effects on the motorcycle industry, which sees more than 500,000 motorcycles registered each year,” said PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil in a statement today.

Fahmi called the proposal “nonsensical and irresponsible”, coming as it did in a time of economic decline.

(Source)

Before I put down my take on the proposed ban (the idea have been shelved anyway), let me emphasize that I was a biker once and I rode a “kapchai” bike too. I rode second handed Honda Cub (one of the best bike around) and the iconic Yamaha RXZ before I decided to buy a new bike. Main reason for that is because I used to ride pillion on my brother’s bike but he gets so tense up when I ask him to slow down and follow the rules. It was time for me to get my own bike and ride like a big biker. I rode a small bike but I had tear-proof jacket, leather gloves and a good, branded helmet. I opted for a Malaysian made Modenas because firstly it was cheap and secondly the bike shop was just next to the house which makes service easy but due to some problem with the Modenas dealer (he was half bankrupt and my deposit got stuck), I changed my option to a Yamaha Y110SS which was stylish, very dependable (even though it was on 2 stroke) and fast (I preferred Yamaha 125ZR but it was too expensive and was “hot” with bike thieves). And the reason for me using kapchai was because that was one of the cheapest mode of transportation that I could afford without taking the bus (petrol last me almost a week) and riding a kapchai in KL was the best way to avoid the crazy traffic jam in the city. So I do understand the situation from a biker’s point of view.

But over the years, seeing the number of deaths on the road and being menace to other road users, I do think that kapchai’s should be banned.

It should be banned not because of the nonsense excuse of controlling the emission (car, truck and bus emissions are even worse) but because of the number of traffic rule offences incurred by these kapchai riders. Too many bikes on the road are of poor condition too. Never passes a day without me seeing a bike without lights at the front and back – endangering themselves and their pillion riders. The worse of the worse are those sending their kids to school in the morning without any helmet or having more than one pillion rider including babies. And breaking the law is the signature of most (I say most) kapchai riders – you name it, they do it – riding without helmet, riding against the traffic, changing lanes without any signals, running traffic lights, illegal racing and doing stunts on public roads (aka as Mat Rempits). Kapchai is also the preferred mode of transportation of snatch thieves as it is easy for them to make a getaway.

And it should not be banned on in the city but rather banned nationwide – in the cities, towns, small towns, residential areas, etc. You may ask what happens to the motorbike manufacturers and distributors? Push for sale for bigger capacity bikes – yes, it will be more expensive but in the end, there will be enough demands to meet up the loss. 250cc bikes which was out of reach during my time is actually cheaper nowadays. You can get a KTM Duke 250 for less than RM20,000 or a Benelli TNT 250 for less than RM15,000. And with bigger bikes, push for proper safety gears to be worn by riders & pillion riders (jacket, gloves, boots, etc). Not cheap I agree but we need to move from a small bike nation to a bigger bike nation mentality eventually.

Interestingly the same notion was made in a letter to The Sun:-

REPORTS of opposition to the proposal to ban small motorcycles from Kuala Lumpur are off-target. On the contrary, such a ban will be welcomed by those who live and work in the city. Let me explain.

First, nobody feels safe when motorcyclists are around except the motorcyclists themselves. Even drivers of four-wheel vehicles are harassed and forced to brake suddenly to avoid hitting them.

Second, traffic rules seemingly do not apply to motorcyclists. They ignore traffic lights, no-entry signs and other rules, perhaps because they can evade the law so easily.

Third, many pedestrians are menaced by motorcyclists who ride on the walkways. I have not seen a motorcyclist booked for this offence.

Fourth, snatch thieves love the motorcycle as it best suits their modus operandi.

Fifth, pollution. Random comments are made that all vehicles pollute and motorcycles are not the worst culprits. That needs to be proven. One needs to look not only at the vehicle size but also their numbers, and the noise.

Surprisingly, I have seen no reports on urban pollution in Malaysia. As a rapidly urbanising society, Malaysians need to know how healthy the air is.

To understand the situation at street level those involved should take public transport for a day. Personal experience would be a far more impactful experience than third-party stories.

There are other reasons that argue against small motorcycles on city streets, including comparative costs. While petrol consumption may be low, there are repair and parking costs, which would make the bus cheaper.

(Source)

Do I need to say more – who knows once we start to ban the small kapchais, the incidents of Mat Rempit and snatch thieves may just go down. Just a wishful thought – who knows, right?

All About Good Parenting Part 2


Read Part 1 here

For the past few days, if you had not noticed, the weather had not been that good – the day had been rather hazy and the nights has been warm and very sweaty. Can you imagine – I was sweating profusely eventhough I was pouring buckets of cold water onto myself. It was that bad. And as if that was not enough, I caught cold and started to cough and it got worse day by day.

One day I woke up, feeling like someone was sitting on my chest and I could not breathe properly. The chest felt heavy and I did not have a good appetite in the morning as well. I went to see the doctor and after registration, I was waiting for the nurse to call me in to see the doctor.

I was coughing almost nonstop and it did not take long for the doctor to come out and told me that sounded very bad. I was put on nebuliser for 30 minutes and despite taking a “crash course” tablets in the doctor’s room – I did not see my improvement. I was given the day off on medical leave and it took me another 2 days for the “burden” on the chest to subside to some extent. And 1 week thereafter I still have not recovered from the bad cough but it is improving, so I think so.

Bike

Anyway take a good look at the picture above and tell me what is grossly wrong with this picture – I got this from one of the Facebook shares much earlier but my thoughts even back then was that why this person endangering young kids and further riding around without any helmet for the kids.

And as if my worst fear becomes a reality, I was sending my kid to school one morning – it was about 6.20 in the morning and the traffic was already bad. As I inches on the fast lane, I noticed on the slow lane, a motorcyclist with a school girl at the back and the school girl was not wearing any helmet. Just then another bike overtook them and caused this motorcyclist with the school girl to fall down. For a moment, my heart stopped when I saw the school girl fell on the tarmac.

Not sure if she had hit her head on the hard, cold tarmac but she immediately stood up. Thank God for the heavy traffic in the morning – there was no speeding car that would have hit both the mother and the daughter into smithereens. It almost ended up as a very tragic morning.

The first obligation for any parents would be the utmost safety of their children. Having kids riding motorcycles without any helmets is a bad, riding around without proper attention to the surrounding traffic attracts the same. And now with the heat wave in place, there are greater calls to parents to keep a close eye on the kids in the car. There have been too many cases of parents leaving their kids in the car and completely forgetting about them. There is just too many unnecessary deaths to contend with.

The second obligation would be education for their children.

In the beginning, it can start with education on the aspects of safety – simple things like wearing a seat  belt when in a car, the right way to cross the road, how to hold hands when walking in a crowd, how to hold something sharp like a scissors, how not to run around in the house, how to hold something that is hot, etc. Kids must always be taught to recognise potential danger and how to deal with that dangerous situation.

Be paranoid if you need to be and think of all the possible ways of your kids can get injured and do something to mitigate them.

One of the earliest form of safety education was for them to wear a seat belt whenever we are in the car and they know that we are not go anywhere until everyone had been buckled down. God knows how many times I got a shock seeing kids jumping in the car as the driver is speeding over 100 km/h. I wish I could shout and alert the driver but it seemed to be a futile effort.

The other aspect of education that all parents need to ensure is teaching the right things – what is right & wrong in general sense. The issue of morality and what is right & wrong is something personal and is a very subjective. That one I would leave it to the individual parents but it is an education that must take place in the end.

Personally I must admit that no one out there that is perfect and we all have some form of shortcomings one way or another. Education to my kids takes a mix form – from leading by example, “case study”, motivation & counseling and reflection of the mistakes & errors done in the past and what can be done to avoid the same in the future. And trust me, we adults have plenty to learn from innocent children as well and this strengthen our bonding. We learn from each other as we see things from different spectrum – experience vs innocence.

Academic education is essential for one’s future, no doubt but how & where one gets his / her academic education will be something that one need to decide when the time is right. Ambitions, opportunities and interests changes all the time – I know – I once wanted to be a fire-fighter but ended up something else.

Give a thought – after all, nothing is more important than the well-being of our kids

Chennai Floods & Prepping


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I am still on hiatus, hopefully not for long

Chennai-flood-EPS

(Image source: http://www.newindianexpress.com)

Let’s talk about prepping which is another key aspect of this blog (the other is how Malaysians drive on the road and of course politics) and on the recent disaster in Chennai, India.

The 2015 South Indian floods resulted from heavy rainfall during the annual northeast monsoon in November–December 2015. They affected the Coromandel Coast region of the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and the union territory of Puducherry, with Tamil Nadu and the city of Chennai particularly hard-hit.

More than 400 people were killed and over 1.8 million people were displaced. With estimates of damages and losses ranging from over ₹20000 crore (US$3 billion) to ₹100000 crore (US$15 billion), the floods are the costliest to have occurred in 2015, and are among the costliest natural disasters of the year. The flooding has been attributed to the El Niño phenomenon during the El Niño year of 2015.

(Source)

I have friends, colleagues and distant relatives who are working and staying in Chennai and I know they have been badly hit by the flood.

For past 3-4 days of flooding, they had no electricity, running water, access to cooked food & drinking water, access to ATM and petrol and in some serious cases, even a place to stay. There had been reports of scores of people who had made it to the high grounds with just the clothes that they had wearing. They lost everything. It was a wreck to see small kids among those camped out waiting for the flood water to recede. An ideal doomsday scenario. And it is not over yet, the massive cleanup and getting back to the daily routine before the tragedy will take time and a lot of money and resources.

One cannot deny that Malaysia too is facing similar scenario on a daily basis but where credit is due and perhaps because we have been dealing yearly flooding since day 1, the response time and pre-flood emergency preparations by Malaysian Government seems to be much better than of the Tamil Nadu State Government.

Several flood mitigation initiatives have been undertaken by the various agencies, particularly the Department of Irrigation and Drainage, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Among such projects are the construction of flood plains, cantilever walls, tidal barrages, tidal gates, river channels and levees, pumping stations, debris removal systems, monsoon drains, retention and detention ponds, and dams.

The most high-profile mega project was the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) in Kuala Lumpur. Several forecasting warning system also exist to predict flooding instances, such as flood maps, telemetric rainfall stations, telemetric water level stations, manual stick gauges, flood warning boards, flood sirens, weather radar, satellites, and real-time flood forecasting warning systems.

(Source : Centre for Public Policy Studies)

At the end of the day, it is all about preparation, preparation and preparation and a good sense of paranoia (yes believe in Murphy’s law)

And talking about prepping for flood, it is crucial to have a good pre-flood planning and there must be at least 1 bug-out-bag prepped upfront before the flood and be ready with all the essential items.

The American Red Cross suggest these items to be available – packed and ready to go in case one need to evacuate the home:-

Water—at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
Food—at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
Flashlight
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
Extra batteries
First Aid kit
Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
Multi-purpose tool
Sanitation and personal hygiene items
Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
Cell phone with chargers
Family and emergency contact information
Extra cash
Emergency blanket
Map(s) of the area
Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
Tools/supplies for securing your home
Extra set of car keys and house keys
Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
Rain gear
Insect repellent and sunscreen
Camera for photos of damage

(Source)

hdcc_map_floods

(Future of global flooding – it is not going to end there. Source)

And that had me thinking on how early prepping could have made some difference in the aftermath of the worst flooding that Chennai had faced. Let’s list out the immediate concerns of the Chennai flood victims and then go back and see what they could have done or rather need to do for the next on-slaught of a similar flooding in the coming years.

1. Lack of Shelter

If there is risk of flooding, the first rule of risk management recommends risk avoidance and if not possible, at least some sense of risk mitigation. If possible, ensure the house is sitting on high grounds (not necessarily be on top of hills) or at least the foundation is higher than the rest.

In Chennai, whilst it is not possible for someone to look for hills to build houses but the other option available is staying in multi storey building. However even though those who had more than 1 floor of occupied space spared better but without electricity and running water, staying out longer would not been feasible

2. Lack of Food & Drinking Water

With most shops flooded, no running water and access roads blocked, many have to make do with whatever food they managed to salvage. Interestingly there was a piece in the news where the flood victims had no water to drink but alcohol selling shops up and running and having a booming business. In times of dire, it was astounding to know that alcohol is readily available than drinking water which means the liquor sellers were far more efficient than the state government.

To make things worse, shops that had food and water for sale, started selling them for exorbitant price.

And that means in the future, the residents must get ready with their bug out bag stocked with drinking water for at least 48 hours.

3. Lack of Money / Access to ATM

When disaster strikes, resources will be scare and limited and there will be people will to kill others to get access to these limited resources. And those who have that limited resources – shelter, food, water, medicines, transportation, etc will definitely take advantage of the situation (and they did in Chennai, big time).

Having money at hand will be a big, big advantage

4. Lack of Clothes for Change

Imagine this – your house is flooded and you had to abandon it to high grounds. You only managed to grab a few items before it becomes too late. You make it to high ground and you are wet, tired and cold and it is dark outside. And it starts to rain again and it does so for the next 2-3 days.

Trust me, having a change of clean, dry clothes goes a long way to comfort you and somehow replenish you spiritually for days ahead.

5. Lost of Important Documents

One rule that I enforce in the house is that all import documents are properly filed with a plastic cover and when the time comes to leave the house due to an emergency, we know where the documents are and easier to grab and leave. Having important documents especially identification documents is crucial especially aftermath when one need to get back on the routine.

6. Lack of Means of Transportation

The key advise here is to keep track of the news & updates on the weather and the local happenings. This is one reason why I am religiously watch the news first thing in the morning and before going to bed and ensure I get updates from other sources.

I am not sure if early warning was given before it was too late to do anything.

There were reports of people not getting sufficient warning and they only had minutes before it was too late to do anything. Scores of tourists from Malaysia were stranded in Chennai and missed their flights out from the country. Another aspect of transportation is the lack of fuel for the car / motorcycle. With the flood, there is a complete shutdown of the petrol stations around the city and even if they are opened, they don’t have the supply replenished in time. It is time to ensure that there is enough fuel in the vehicles at any one time and workout the alternate route and mode of transportation when roads are closed.

7. Lack of Communication

Even if you have a working telecommunications line working, if your phone battery is dead, you are back to square one and you know how power hungry smartphones are. A dead phone may even end up dangerous option if you are unable to call for help. And with family members separated, it is important to inform others where you are now and whether you are safe or not and if you need any help. Spare battery and power banks are life savers in this modern age and some power banks even now comes with option to charge using solar energy.

Now Chennai is getting back on its feet and there is a massive clean up before things can go back to routine (of course with a lot of finger pointing politically). The same in Malaysia – until today victims of flood is the East Coast still struggling and have not gone back to home. But the reality of things is this – such massive flood is not going to end and with a drastic change in the global weather over the past years, it is only a start.

It is time for preparation – this is not the end of things for sure

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!

Smoke Gets In My Eyes, Again!


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indonesia_tmo_2013170

(The hotspots in Indonesia is a yearly affair and it some how had become “tolerable” when by right it should not be the case. The above when Singapore faced the worst from the slash & burn activities in Indonesia. Image source: http://marufish.com)

At the beginning of last week, this was reported on the state of haze in Malaysia:-

Malaysian authorities declared a state of emergency Sunday in a southern district where a smoky haze blamed on Indonesian forest fires has triggered one of the country’s worst pollution levels in years.

The worst of the smog has shifted from Singapore to southernmost Malaysia, where noxious fumes have drifted across the sea this past week from Indonesia’s Sumatra island. The Malaysian government’s index for air pollution reached a measurement of 746 early Sunday in the southern district of Muar. It was far above the threshold of 300 for hazardous air quality.

Authorities were issuing instructions for Muar’s residents to remain indoors and for schools to close, Environment Minister G. Palanivel said in a statement on his Facebook page. The district has about 250,000 people, several of whom posted photographs on Twitter showing bridges and buildings enveloped in smog that slashed visibility to barely hundreds of meters (feet).

(Source)

And since then, some schools in the Klang Valley were closed for a couple of days (my son certainly was not complaining though) with all of us breathing in and out some of the very unhealthy air todate – some spiked more than 400 on the API reading. But thanks to (man made? or perhaps God taking pity on some of us) heavy rain last week and recent days, API readings have gone down to less dangerous levels and things seemed to have come down to a more normal levels (although last Sunday the haze was back). But hopefully despite the clear skies, we will not be forgetting the culprits who caused some of the worse air pollution over some states in Malaysia last week or keeping our silence on preventing similar occurrence in the coming years.

For start, the Indonesian Government have (once again) blamed (and listed) the “Malaysian” firms involved in the opening burning in Sumatra and on paper, the Malaysian Government have asked for proof and urged prosecution against the wrongdoers but it is a big question on whether the Indonesians would be willing to do that. We are talking big players here and a very aggressive prosecution on something that could be tough to prove (as to who started the fire) could back-fire big time – big players may pull out and huge investments may drop. Think about it – if they could prosecute the culprits, they would have done so a long time ago and that would have been the end of the yearly man-made deadly haze, right?

Interestingly whilst this is still being debated between the Governments, the Malaysian firms having plantation interests in Indonesia have come out emphasizing on their zero burn policy and flatly denied that they were the culprits behind the massive haze over Malaysia & Singapore – they are putting the blame on the locals who determined to do it the easy way. That sounds reasonable but is it?

The standard response has been to blame local communities and smallholders in Sumatra for the clear-cutting and slash-and-burn tactics. It is easy to blame the small guys/local farmers/local communities, etc when they are unable to respond in the media.

Yet, an overlay map of Sumatra shows that there is a close correlation between the hotspots (where the burning is taking place) and the concession areas for oil palm plantations and timber.

So, the large companies then engage some of these local communities to clear the land for them – sort of like outsourcing the land-clearing. And then these local communities do it in the easiest or cheapest way possible. Moreover, the local people often do not have the expertise for replanting, which the large companies possess. But because it is the local communities doing the clearing, the large companies are able to wash their hands and pass the buck to the local communities.

(Source)

And it gets worse if these allegations are true:-

The whole world knows, and has for years, that the haze is not just the product of ‘burning-off’ by a ragtag bunch of small farmers, but wholesale illegal clearance of what’s left of Sumatra’s peat forests by the managements of massive palm-oil plantations.

And that many of these environmental vandals are so-called government-linked corporations which the respective ruling regimes involved are coy about naming because they and their cronies are the principal beneficiaries.

(Source)

In the end, it goes back to the issue of enforcement and the deploying the best method for clearing the land for plantation.

The issue is serious (at least for me) when you have small kids and old people at home and they start to have breathing difficulties and there is nothing much we could do about it. Mind you, 2 people died from all the haze in Malaysia, courtesy of the idiots in Indonesia taking short cuts to clear the land. One of their Ministers even had the cheek to say that the Singaporeans are acting childish on this (some politicians will remain a moron to the core no matter which country they are from). Perhaps some of you may not have small kids and old people to take care of but then what about your own health concerns in the long run? How long you think you can survive wearing mask when you go out? Don’t you get frustrated, angry and sick at the same? What about the negative impact to the country’s economy especially in the tourism sector – how many tourists you think will be willing to take a long stroll outside if the haze is thick and sickening?  In the end, will the slash & burn buggers compensate for these losses – both the economic and personal losses?

00-ria-novosti-infographics-be-200chs-amphibious-firefighting-aircraft-2010

(If there is fire and it cannot be done with simple tools, it is time to look at a more powerful one. One such tool would be the fire-fighting aircraft like the one made by Russia above – it is more effective once coupled with the traditional fire-fighting techniques on the ground. Image source: http://02varvara.wordpress.com)

The “problem” with the problem is that everyone knows what need to be done. The mysterious part would be on the Governments with all its might, expertise and will-power seems to be powerless when this happens on a yearly basis and one need to ask why the might of the law and almost unlimited resources of the Government have not been used to the fullest scale? Sucking up to the slash & burn offenders does has its limits. Instead of being reactive to the problem, why not be proactive instead? After all, trans boundary air pollution is not something one can hide under the blue carpet.

Enforcement aspect aside (it is all talk and no action here for donkey odd years), let’s start with a beef-up the fire services with a specialize team on the forest & peat fires with superior technology (like early warning systems), tools (such fire-fighting planes) and man-power all paid in advance on a yearly basis from a centralised fund (all donated graciously from all plantation owners)? Why not use the satellite imaginary system to pin-point the start of the peat and use the information to coordinate fire-fighting and enforcement on a more aggressive manner? It can be done if this need to be done.

But before that, the Indonesia Government should start with ratifying the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution is an environmental agreement established in 2002 between all ASEAN nations to reduce haze pollution in Southeast Asia. There should not be any more excuses from the Indonesians, now that the source of the haze is clearly is self made and is in their own back yard.

Time to breathe in and breathe out before the next round of haze is back

2012 Updates: It’s This Week, Folks!


mayan calendar

(The Mayan Calendar ending on the year 2012 could have been due to this reason – who knows – and we are freaking out for no good reason in 2012. Image source: http://www.abovetopsecret.com)

Mayan’s Long Calendar will end this Friday and thus end of the world as we know it, so believed by many doomsday believers.

However, it is very likely that we will make it to next week (and the coming months) without any major incidents. After all, I am sure all of us have made major plans to do things and go places in the coming years and we expect to get things done as planned. We have yet to see any news on the discovery of any large asteroid heading directly towards the planet or the appearance of the mysterious Planet X which will collide with planet Earth on 21st December 2012. And so far no one had pressed the doomsday panic button – not from any Government officials, space agencies, well-known public figures or NGOs. Although we have been seeing more than usual earthquakes and typhoons (such the recent Typhoon Bopha which hit the Philippines and caused more than 1000 casualties) in the past months, that has not been something that we have not seen before (and yes, we have seen worse).

But then again, it does not mean we can just stand-by and take all things in complete ignorance of any dangers to the civilization as we know it (you seriously think that we are all alone in the universe and the planet Earth is completely immune to all types of dangers from in and out? Dream on, brother!). There is always of 0.0001% chance of something creeping up on us when we least expected. It has happened in the past and it can always happen again in the near future. Whatever said and done, we should never stop prepping for the future.

doomsday ark

(The doomsday ark in the movie 2012 – in the movie, an ark ticket was sold for 1 billion Euro. I wonder what would be the cost if doomsday scenario is real and a real ark is built with limited seat for all and whether the smaller, poorer nations will even be eligible for a place in such ark. Image source: http://www.whatsonxiamen.com)

Think this as a possible conspiracy scenario – what if all the heads of Government have been called for a secret meeting and been forewarned of an impending danger to the planet say some 3 – 5 years ago (if you had been keeping an eye for interesting rumours, you would have heard about the letter from a “Norwegian politician”) and a consortium of companies have been selected to built a doomsday ark of sort in secret (with each Government contributing based on their allocation of a place in the ark for their people) and as the ark is being built and the list of survivors being drawn up, they are told to keep the whole thing hush-hush to avoid a massive global panic. Yes, in the same way the Government covered up in the movie 2012. And just imagine watching CNN on the eve of doomsday at your local mamak stall, having your teh-tarik & roti canai when the news of the impending danger is officially announced to the masses and in the background, you catch a glimpse of the Fat Mamma entering the ark with all her shopping bags. It may or may not happen.

Consider the fact that we simply do not have the resources and time to scan the entire sky for any changes to the alignment of the star and planetary system in our galaxy that may have put gravitational force on the planet Earth (that may set mega earthquakes and tsunamis) or asteroids such as 4179 Toutatis that flew past us last week (you were aware of it? we have about 1,325 of them on watch list and the number is growing) or the so-called dark comets that may have been missed previously and is hurling towards the planet undetected. We have probably spent more money into military expansions, mismanagement of the economy and corruption than on astronomy and space explorations. Yes, we have NASA, the European Space Agency, the Russians, the Chinese and not forgetting our very own Angkasawan that manages anything that related to space exploration and astronomy but it does not mean that they have unlimited budget, time and manpower to get their tasks done. Even the powerful, well-funded and equipped NASA is relying on amateur astronomers to look out for asteroids. The question is are we looking at the right spot in space and how much of it is under our radars.

And who knows, perhaps we already have an alien mother-ship hovering on our atmosphere in an unknown stealth technology waiting for some countdown that ends on 21st December 2012 (remember the movie Independence Day?). One can just hope that they have a good appetite for corrupt and greedy politicians and businessmen and they will leave the solar system once they have “cleaned up” the planet.

Yellowstone_SuperVolcano

(A sleeping giant that may wake up one day. Image source: http://www.cuttingedge.org)

We still have the time bomb lurking under the vast Yellowstone National Park which some say will wipe most of America out with estimated 100 million dead, leaving the sole super power in the world (to some degree) in ruins and incapacitated. And if you think we all in Malaysia will be safe as we are far away from this hotspot, think again – a cloud of ash & debris will linger on the atmosphere for months if not years, bringing down the global temperature and creating major havoc on agriculture all over the world. Imagine the steep cost of food and breakout of famines around the world. Imagine with the US out of the picture, guess who is going to fill up the power vacuum as far as Malaysia is concerned? Well, be prepared to shed the National language and English from our schools and use Mandarin (or who knows, Hindi) on full time basis instead. With rogue countries like North Korea and Pakistan in the picture, doomsday scenario will be more realistic than ever.

And some scientists are expecting that the planet Earth is long due for a major geomagnetic reversal (for some also known as the polar shift). Will it happen this week or in the coming weeks? The scientific community as whole seems to concur on the theory that changes in geomagnetic happens over a long period and does not change all too sudden. But what if it does? What it means to us when it happens?

If a large pole shift could happen suddenly, the redistribution of land and water it caused would be nothing short of cataclysmic.

In the short term, it would mean earthquakes, strange weather patterns, massive tsunamis capable of drowning parts of continents, and possibly gaps in the planet’s magnetic field — our shield against harmful cosmic rays. In the long term, the redistribution of land and water in the tropics, subtropics and poles would fundamentally alter ocean currents and the heat balance of the Earth, resulting in widespread climatological shifts.

Ice caps might melt and reform elsewhere, or remain melted, driving sea levels down or up.

(Source)

And most 2012 doomsday websites are talking about the more obvious and realistic danger to the world (and I am thinking the same) – a major solar storm that will bring down the power grids and leaves millions without electricity for months. And for a society that is so dependant on electricity for almost everything that it touches, from running the computers, pumping fuel, running the water supply to homes and businesses, etc, without electricity, this society would simply breakdown. A real doomsday threat, no thanks to our own growth and over reliance in technology. But then, again we had gone through the sun’s 11 years cycle many, many times before and we somehow had survive it without much fuss and danger to our power grids. Will we see the “big one” any time soon?

Think about it – some doomsday scenarios can be far-fetched but does it mean it will never happen? Anyway, it is just a food for your thoughts, considering that all the hype on the Mayan Long Calendar coming to an “end” this Friday. But as I mentioned before, it is very likely that we will make it to next week (and the coming months or years) without any major incidents. However don’t stop prepping and keep one eye opened for any eventuality as the world as we know it will eventually end one day. It may not happen this Friday or next year or next 10 years or not in our lifetime – we just do not know when and how but there is no harm to be prepared and educating our kids to be prepared as well.

Have a good week ahead, enjoy the “fireworks” on this Friday and I will see you next week, same time and at the same place.

Prepping in Malaysia Part 1


Oh no, another doomsday post before the weekends…!

(Still think that EMP or Electro Magnetic Pulse is a distinct threat? The above was captured a couple days ago and if the sun storms are threatening satellites flying couple hundreds of miles from the surface of the planet, just think of the risk if sun storms gets more violent in the coming months as predicted by some scientists? )

I always think that tomorrow would better than today but at the same time, I also believe in preparing for tomorrow, today. If you are thinking the same and you are actually doing something about it, you can call yourself a prepper.

If you had been watching the “Doomsday Preppers” over at Nat Geo Channel (if you have not, you should), you will discover how some people will go to the extreme to prepare for worst case scenario and some people have been “prepping” for many types of eventuality (hyperinflation, collapse of the economy, end of the world scenario, major power blackouts, natural disaster, etc) for more than 2 years now. In Malaysia, we have yet to go on such large scale when it comes to prepping. Perhaps since we do not face any natural disasters and our nearest hypermarkets always well stocked and cost of good have always been cheap, we are taking things for granted.

But we also must keep in mind that we are not completely safe from events that are happening around the world – events that could and would disrupt our daily activities and turn the world upside down for us. One such event in the horizon is this:-

A new respiratory illness similar to the Sars virus that spread globally in 2003 and killed hundreds of people has been identified in a man who is being treated in Britain. The 49-year-old man, who was transferred to a London hospital by air ambulance from Qatar, is the second person confirmed with the coronavirus. The first case was a patient in Saudi Arabia who has since died. Officials are still determining what threat the new virus may pose.

(Source)

Add the above to the list of known & unknown viruses that are flying around on a global sense on daily basis, a number of WW3 hotspots around the world and out of the norm natural disasters, it makes more sense that we need to have some kind of “Plan B” in our pockets.

You need not take extreme measures. If you want to prep for any emergencies, you will know that it is not easy to be a prepper in Malaysia. As such, it would be interesting to share ideas and read on how others do their prepping for emergencies in this country and mind you, not all are preparing for end of the world. I am preparing for an unusual blackouts expected due to the predicted solar storms in the next few months (the sun is undergoing it’s 11 years cycle and scientists had predicted it to peak year end).

Prepping has been a challenge for me too (and it still is) and the first thing before we proceeded to anything was to find the space for storing. The obvious choice was the small storeroom in the house but it was full of items (mostly junks) and it seemed a nightmare to even think of cleaning it. But as one would say, a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, after I had spent a considerable time to clear out the storeroom in the house (we did not realize how much unwanted things can take up so much space in the little storeroom and it does nothing but collect dusts. It took us almost 3 rounds of cleaning before we managed to clear them) and then get it painted and stocked it with proper shelves (it was on fire sale at Tesco, so I bought 5 at one go), it was easier to start on the actual prepping tasks.

The first things that we bought for our “doomsday” storeroom was canned food and the obvious one in our list was canned sardines. A whole lot of them! It was not really cheap (there were cheaper options but we have never about that particular brand) but expiry date was in 2014 (which meant at least 2 years of shelf life) and it is something that we had for dinner on a regular basis. And slowly we added other canned items – canned chicken curry, canned green peas, canned peas in tomato sauce and canned tuna. It is easier to store (just need to stack them up) and it is safe as well. We wrote down the expiry month and year on the cans and we stack them based on the expiry dates (the earlier dates at the front).

Two 15 litres water containers was the next item on our list and with another 3 other containers of boiled filtered water meant that we have about 75 litres of drinking water at given time of the day. Experts recommend about 1 gallon (about 3.8 litres) per day per person during emergency and at least for 3 days. At the current stage, the water storage is enough to last the family for 3 days but certainly this is not enough on a long term basis. The next stage would be to increase this water storage capacity and I am planning to purchase large water containers to hold raw tap water. Rainwater harvesting system is another option for a renewal source of water in case the taps goes dry but as I mentioned in my previous posts, this option is not feasible in Malaysia if you don’t have the space (most of us don’t). You cannot simply have a large ugly expensive containers lying on your porch. There is still some work to be done here.

We then refocus back on our storeroom prep and we knew that we needed more than canned food. An incident a couple of days before the Hari Raya holidays reminded us on the stark reality of things to come. We went to our usual hypermarket and after we have fill our shopping cart almost full, we headed towards the counter when my wife remembered that we need to buy cooking oil. We walked towards the area where they had the cooking oils stocked and what we saw was rather shocking, the whole shelf was empty. Not one oil cooking bottle was available other than the more premium non-palm cooking oil and we had no other choice but to buy the premium non-palm cooking oil. But what will happen if this goes empty too?

So we added cooking oil into our storeroom items (unfortunately cooking oil is have very short shelf life) so we have to consistently keep an eye on it. We also added packets of rice although it does not make a good item for “doomsday” store as it finishes rather quickly and we have yet to try keeping rice in vacuum sealed packets which would keep rice fresh for 20 years or more. Then the usual stuff was added on the list – packets of maggi instant mee, chilly sauce bottles and biscuits. The next plan would to add “MRE” like food (although it is quite tough to find them in Malaysia) and of course, more canned food.

To be continued…