Smoke Gets In My Eyes, Again!


Read these first

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

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Prepping in Malaysia Part 4


Now that the GE13 has ended and Pakatan had settled the issue of the Menteri Besar in Selangor rather peacefully (thank God!), probably it is a best time to go back to our daily routine and one of it would be on prepping.

Read these first:-

canned food

(The canned food in the storeroom. Having enough food and clean drinking water for the family draws the highest priority on my prepping list but of course looking for storage place without it is left on the open is fast becoming an issue – I blame this on housing developers not having basement as a standard house designs in this country. It’s time to be highly creative with storage)

The world did not end last year but it was not the end of prepping as we moved over to 2013. We still had sporadic water disruptions although it was not that bad at my residential area – the water supply resumes the same day although some of my colleagues still had water disruption for days. We have yet to hit the big one on natural disasters including solar storms and global wide pandemic. On the other side of the coin, the recent general elections went rather peaceful and things soon got into a routine just a few days after it had ended although politicians are keeping the fire up the wrong issues for their own political reasons (appointment of the “once banned, once running fugitive” Hindraf’s Waytha as a Deputy Minister and uninspiring Cabinet Ministers however could be good reason to be concerned). So the panic purchase of essential goods before the elections did not happen although I did see more people with extra rice bags in their shopping carts this time around.

There have not been that many changes to my own level of prepping at home other than rearranging some of the storage and cleaning out some of drawers to keep more things.

We now have at least two 10 kg bags of rice on “standby” – when we use one up and pour the load into a separate rice container (which holds about 15 kg of rice), this bag is quickly replaced with a new bag. We had stocked up more on salt, sugar & cooking oil (even since the local store ran out of sugar one day) – all that we use in our daily cooking and always in demand. Storage of the canned food now includes bottles of sauce for spaghetti (my wife nowadays cook them for dinner). I have also added couple bottles of honey – which will come handy if we run out of sugar and of course does not have any expiry date. Air-tight containers (recycled from long titbits containers) are a good way to store spices and other small items – containers are easily stacked up. Instant noodles remains one of the more essential items in the store-room and have a drawer on its own and we now 00include dry noodle packets – it’s cheaper and flexible enough when it comes to cooking them. We stick to the principle of “storing what we eat and eat what we store” – this is to ensure stored food does not expire and we always the “latest” food stored.

One key thing that has improved greatly compared to last year is the understanding among family members on the need for prepping – so they all help out whenever they can when it comes to prepping. Prepping is no longer “sounds Greek”. No more weird looks when I talk about prepping. Family members do their own sundry shopping and whenever possible, now adds to the number of items in the “prepping” storeroom. This of course puts more strain on the available space so we had to be more creative in storing. Despite the rearranging things in the storeroom, squeezing every little bit of space, it is clear that we are running out of storage fast – the renovation of my kitchen (we hoped to get plenty of storage space once done) had to be kept on hold as we have not finalised the contractor, design & the budget.

And when it comes to storage, we also have non-food items to content with – spare batteries, candles, water filters, toiletries, garbage bags and washing items. My son’s room had the space and with a large cabinet in one corner with some old clothes and non essential items taking up precious space, it was time for another round of house-keeping. We threw away 1-2 bags of old DVDs from my collection and at least 3 large bags of old clothes (this one will go into the neighbourhood recycle bin) – we had cleared enough space to store our bathroom essentials – packages of soap bars, tooth pastes, tooth brushes, shaving blades, etc. At another corner, washing essentials – floor cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, tiles cleaners – all kept in place with proper ventilation and far from reach of children. And just like anyone running a storeroom anywhere in the world, inventory checking is a must and we often do that before month end and before we prepare the next month’s shopping list. It also gives us the chance to check on the expiry dates, condition of the items in the storeroom, rotate or use them accordingly and work out the quantity in the storeroom.

Next on the item is drinking water. There is still no rainwater harvesting system in place but this year (thanks to the water leaking into the bedroom), we managed to fix the leaks up at the roof and the water tanks. We can now be assured that we will always have at least full water tank in place should the water supply disrupted without notice. The two 15 litres containers for drinking water remains unchanged – I thought of adding another container but space in the kitchen is at a premium. So I decided to maintain the large raw water drum in the storeroom with a planned replenish cycle of 6 months. There are no plans to add any new water drums / containers until perhaps after my kitchen have gone through the overdue renovation (I already can imagine one corner to stack up with water containers – actively used for drinking and cooking).

When it comes to prepping, one cannot run away from the concept of bug-out-bag or as some would call – “mobile prepping”. I thought I have a reasonable bug-out-bag which I bring along when I go out to work or on long distant journey. My version of the bug-out-bug is not extensive although I want it to be – most of the items are stored in the house instead of the bag. But the more I think about it and as more prepping is done at home, it is clear that my bug-out-bag still has a long way to go before it is considered a bug-out-bag is sufficient enough to sustain for the next 72 hours. So I decided to re-designate it as more of a “get-home” bag (with key things – food, water, utility knife and clothes) than a proper 72 hours bug-out-bag. Work on a proper bug-out-bag have to take a back seat for the time being although I have the right bag for it (tucked away somewhere).

There is still outstanding work to be done namely on improvement of safety and trying to grow own vegetables in our small garden to minimise costs. We tried it before with chillies and tomatoes but the vegetables that we grew did not do well after attacked by pests. We still have 7 months to go before end of the year, so there’s still time to get things done. Perhaps with a mini greenhouse for the plants. For those who have not think about prepping, there is always time and opportunity to start this. We should have “always be ready” mindset so that when the tough gets going, we should always have Plan B lying around somewhere.

To be continued and happy prepping…

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…

2012 Updates: Doomsday Survival in Malaysia


Read these first:-

(The essentials for a bug out bag – How many of us have one similar in case we need to grab the essential items from the house and had to go out to somewhere safe and had to survive on our own without getting rescued? Image source: http://americansurvival101.blogspot.com)

We are almost half way there…

A question. How many of you think that we need to get prepared for the unexpected that may or may not happen in the next few months? Most of you? A handful of you? And mind you, I am not even asking you to think about the so-called end of the world prophecy by the Mayans. It is not necessarily have to be that particular scenario.

I read this a couple days ago:-

Leaders of the opposition party may resort to using prolonged violent demonstrations to win the 13th general election as the democratic approach would not yield them victory if general election results in the past is anything to go by, said former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

(Source)

In Malaysia, the politics of fear has remained the politicians strategy to ensure continued votes to keeps themselves and their cronies in preferable position and I am not saying this is something new. It may not even wrong to say these things out now as fear can be great motivator and make people think twice of the consequences. Violent demonstrations is one example of disruption to our daily routine – food & other essential items may be rationed if businesses are closed for longer terms.  The same goes to the belief that the world may come to an end on 21st December 2o12. Those who fear that the prophecies may come true have started to make preparation for doomsday survival (and there seems to be many of them).

Let’s take the worst case scenario for argument sake. Let’s assume that something will happen in December this year and how one survives that event depends on how one had prepared themselves.

If it comes to the country that you want to be to survive if the world comes to “an end” on 21st December 2012, Malaysia may not be the best choice out there. Don’t get me wrong, Malaysia is a great country and with very little natural disasters to contend with (we don’t have earthquakes now but it may change in the future), we have one less thing to worry about. But then again it may also prove to be our Achilles’ heels – we may feel safe here but being too safe means we get complacent on issue of readiness and survival actions.

Just consider some of these factors that any survivalists in this country have to contend with (in no particular order):-

1. Basement or attic is not a norm in this country.

Just check around – how many of the houses on sale in this country comes with a good size basement or attic? At the most, you have a pitiful size storeroom at the bottom of the staircase (like the one in my house) or a storeroom cum maid’s room in some of the bigger houses. Admittedly houses in Malaysia is still cheaper than some of the houses in the countries that I have travelled to in the last few years but land portion is still a premium – not even enough to build a small garden shed, basement or other structures.

As survivalists, we may not have basements or attics but we have small storerooms (or spare bedrooms) and unfortunately this is what we have to use as storage to build the all important emergency food & other necessity items. It is not enough to hold emergency water storage (those large water tanks) and any food stored in the pitiful sized storerooms would not be enough to last your family for a few days. And certainly without a good sheltered basement, it may not provide a good protection from harsh weather.

There seems to be only one solution for this – buy your own land and build your own disaster proof basement. In Malaysia, most of us can only dream about this.

2. There are not that many survivalist tools & equipment suppliers

Ask this simple question – how easy it is to buy say water purification tablets or well-stocked bug out bag. And our so-called hardware shops around the country is nothing to shout about – it is more accustomed to large scale constructions and if there is a DIY store anywhere, it is not really user-friendly (yes, some of them are well stocked and plenty of Santa’s helpers around to assist).

I know because I have been visiting them quite frequently lately (I am revamping my store-room to be a food & emergency items storage place) and I did not get some of the items on sale. First, the size of the store does not means it is well stocked – despite my high & low search; I have yet to find a float for my water containers. Secondly just how many of the DIY items comes with proper instructions? Not many and that could be a problem – we may not have the solution to all our problems. Thankfully there is one’s resourcefulness and the internet to get all that important guide.

(Yes, you can opt to keep that huge collection tank at ground level but it is not convenient and is not efficient. It has to be lower for gravity to work its wonders. Image source: http://www.constructionresources.com)

3. Rainwater harvesting system is new and only for a privilege few

I am not sure how the rainwater harvesting system in Malaysia really works but from what I have been reading on the net, for the rainwater harvesting system to really work, you need a proper basement. Then again, see the problem here? No basement means insufficient storage space for the rainwater collected (where else you want to keep your water tanks, the complex filtration system and the water pumps?)

It gets worse if you are living in high-rise apartments – you can only rely on one source of water.

You can try to create some kind of storage with the little space you have in your garden but expensive items laying around on the outside in this country may not be laying around for long. You would have spent thousands of ringgit and time to get that installed just to wake up the next morning to find someone with itchy hands had dismantle it for the scrapyards. Such system had to be inside the house where it does not take up space on the garden and it can be safe from unwanted attention.

4. Solar system is new and no framework to allow home users to utilise alternative energy source

It is the same situation as the case of the rainwater harvesting system – the technology is so new and it is only available for a privileged few (a few who have the space and money). And even with the proposed feed-in tariff (FiT) implementation, the energy generated by the solar panels on your property will not necessarily mean that you will be able to be self-sustain on the energy available.

5. It is not easy to get a gun in this country

I think this is crystal clear to all in this country – there are strict gun laws in this country. Well, it could be a good thing and also a bad thing. The good thing is that we can expect less people to be walking around with guns in their hands at doomsday. Consider this:-

The estimated total number of guns held by civilians in Malaysia is 370,000
The estimated total number of guns held by civilians in the United States is 270,000,000

The rate of private gun ownership in Malaysia is 1.5 firearms per 100 people
The rate of private gun ownership in the United States is 88.8 firearms per 100 people

(Source)

So, how else we can defend ourselves and the family when lawlessness rules the day and enforcement agencies are out of commission? Perhaps I may have watched too many zombie movies but it would not wrong to be holding a powerful shotgun and start to clear a couple of crooks out to injure you and your family and grab whatever little resources that you may have. It is a nice to have scenario but perhaps only in the movies. Not in real life and certainly not in this country.

But having said that, it does not mean that Malaysia is the wrong country to be in – we also have other advantages compared to other countries – there’s plenty of sunshine and rain to keep surviving in bad times. It all depends on individuals on how they want to proceed from there. Let’s start with the easy ones – build proper food & water storage for the family and start growing own vegetables and fruits in whatever space we have (even if we are living in high rise buildings). If this is not possible, then at least equipped yourself with the right knowledge in survival, medicine and DIY skills.

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2012 Updates: Solar Flares


Some “2012” updates for your weekend reading…

(Solar storm is a serious threat around 2012. Both NASA and ESA confirmed the next huge solar storm between September 2012 and May 2013. We all heard about the big one in 1859 and it looks like we are not far away from another one coming our way. Source: Youtube)

From Survive2012:-

Lawrence E Joseph, Patrick Geryl and myself would probably be the 2012 catastrophists that have reached the most people. Something we all proclaim is that our Sun is the most likely source of a 2012 disaster:

We each understand that a solar storm could wipe out power grids and potentially melt down nuclear facilities, leading to many millions of lost lives. That late 2012/ early 2013 is probably the peak of this solar cycle fits well with all three theories.

They further argue this based on these facts:-

Our Solar System is at its “solar max”, meaning the Sun is expected to have a change in magnetism and ultimately will trigger a chain reaction throughout the entire Solar System. Every 11 years we play ‘Russian roulette’ with the sun, and sooner or later we are going to lose that bet. According to scientists, we are in the middle of an 11,500 year cycle of when the ice age returns. It was approximately 11,500 years ago that the world saw its last ice age, starting off with a polar shift. Earth doesn’t have to flip an entire 180 to truly throw off the balance of the Eco-systems and have some devastating effects on the way we live life.

They are predicting long term black out. And as we know that modern life without power (coupled with cascading impact on other areas like water distribution sewage system, banking, etc) even for a couple of days would be a disaster (this in addition to the fact that solar storms produce massive amounts of electromagnetic radiation). Imagine the effect over a couple of months or even years:-

NASA-funded study by the National Academy of Sciences entitled Severe Space Weather Events—Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts. In the 132-page report, experts detailed what might happen to our modern, high-tech society in the event of a “super solar flare” followed by an extreme geomagnetic storm. They found that almost nothing is immune from space weather—not even the water in your bathroom.

The problem begins with the electric power grid. “Electric power is modern society’s cornerstone technology on which virtually all other infrastructures and services depend,” the report notes. Yet it is particularly vulnerable to bad space weather. Ground currents induced during geomagnetic storms can actually melt the copper windings of transformers at the heart of many power distribution systems.

Power outages would be accompanied by radio blackouts and satellite malfunctions; telecommunications, GPS navigation, banking and finance, and transportation would all be affected. Some problems would correct themselves with the fading of the storm: radio and GPS transmissions could come back online fairly quickly.

Other problems would be lasting: a burnt-out multi-ton transformer, for instance, can take weeks or months to repair. The total economic impact in the first year alone could reach $2 trillion, some 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina.

(Source)

Of course in the US, NASA is not sitting on their laurels, waiting for a disaster to happen:-

Reliable forecasting is the key. If utility and satellite operators know a storm is coming, they can take measures to reduce damage—e.g., disconnecting wires, shielding vulnerable electronics, powering down critical hardware. A few hours without power is better than a few weeks.

NASA has deployed a fleet of spacecraft to study the sun and its eruptions. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the twin STEREO probes, ACE, Wind and others are on duty 24/7. NASA physicists use data from these missions to understand the underlying physics of flares and geomagnetic storms; personnel at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center use the findings, in turn, to hone their forecasts.

But that is in the US. What about Malaysia? How prepared we are to deal with solar storm that may (or may not) hit us unannounced this year? I am not sure if you remembered the major power outage that shut down the national grid for 14 hours in 1996?

It was bad because it happened on a weekend but things went to bad to worse in days. First, we had no electricity which was not so bad because we were staying in an apartment which situated on a hill – so it was not that warm during the night. We could not watch the TV for days but we used that time to catch up on our studies. Then we realized that we had no running water and that took days for the water supply to be back in stages (long after electricity supply was back to normal). I still remember me and my brother hauling buckets of water up 5 floors to our apartment several times when the water truck came visiting us on the second day. I even had to use the toilet and take shower at office for couple of days before we had sense of normality. Guess what is going to happen if the same happens and we are out of electricity and water for months?

A major power blackout in Malaysia is not something new – we had it in 1992, 1996, 2003 and 2005. Some say that it is an act of “sabotage” to allow IPPs to come into the picture with favorable deal but then again, it may not be so. It could mean that the current power generation is simply incapable to cope with the growing demand for more power or we have not taken all the necessary precaution to prevent a major national power blackout.

HOURS after a power failure yesterday, Malaysia’s monopoly power distributor Tenaga Nasional cited a technical fault as the reason for the blackout but said it was baffled as to why it occurred. The three-hour cut in power plunged many buildings in Kuala Lumpur and three southern states in the peninsula into semi-darkness. It was the country’s most widespread power failure since 1996.

When the main busbar malfunctioned, a standby busbar was to have taken over its functions, ensuring smooth transmission of power. But even the backup busbar failed, leaving officials puzzled. There were concerns about whether employees had slipped on maintenance, and Energy Minister Lim Keng Yaik said: ‘We have to find out if there was human error or maintenance not up to the mark.

Tenaga Nasional was ordered to ensure the failure was never repeated. But yesterday it did happen again, though not for long. Datuk Abdul Hadi said, adding that Tenaga Nasional was unhappy it took so long to restore power.

(Source)

The above happened in 2005 and 7 years later, I am sure that Tenaga would have taken even more precautionary steps to prevent another national blackout. It has been some time since we had any major power outage but we should not disregard that we may face a record sized solar storm this year.

The way I see it, the future of our civilization as we know it may head to one of these 2 directions – it will either end abruptly as early as 2012 as mentioned in the Holy Scriptures (or as predicated by the Mayans) or nothing major happens in 2012 and the future will come to a point where the civilization will become so advanced that humans start exploring the universe on a larger scale on warp capable space ships (like in the TV series, Star Trek)

I am hoping for the latter but still we should not ever ignore the possibility of the former and predictions and analysis that comes with it. Happy Tamil New Year.

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Wayang Kulit before Elections


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Source)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Source)

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

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

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Home Solar in Malaysia


Read these first:-

(The entire set is expected to cost house owners RM60,000 – it is not cheap but the return of investment does look favorable. If there is special funds for house owners to part finance the set-up cost and then tie the repayment to the monthly FiT, that will promote a greater use of solar panels at residential areas. Image source: http://www.eurocosm.com/)

Seriously, I kind of excited with this:-

BY the end of the year, Malaysians with landed homes can start to generate electricity using their rooftops – and get paid for it by national utility company Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB). This is made possible under the latest push to uphold renewable energy as the “fifth national fuel”.

This push, possibly creating thousands of “independent power producers” along the way, is a likely outcome with the implementation of the feed-in tariff (FiT) system aimed at stimulating the development of renewable energy (RE). FiT works by paying a premium (above what fossil fuel power plants get) for electricity generated from non-fossil fuel sources such as geothermal, mini-hydro schemes and biomass, to name a few.

Despite the seemingly wide choices of renewable energy, solar photovoltaic (PV) appears to be the only feasible option for the average Joe as other alternatives demand high start-up costs and have logistical constraints (like location, in the case of mini hydro projects). With its location near the Equator, Malaysia gets around five to six hours of optimal light each day for PV electricity generation, regardless of whether the PV modules are mounted on rooftops or the ground.

FiT will enable homeowners to receive up to RM1.78 for each kWh they sell to TNB. Homes with installed capacity of up to 4 kWp will be paid RM1.23 per kWh, while those generating above 4kWp (capped at 24 kWp) will be paid RM1.20.

“However, with the bonus criteria such as installation of solar PV in buildings or building structures (rather than stand-alone ground-mounted ones), they will be paid an additional 26 sen on top of the base payment,’’

Regardless of ownership, Malaysia’s FiT framework will guarantee all solar power producers an income for up to 21 years. “Under FiT, consumers producing 4kWp of electricity at home can earn more than RM700 (gross) a month, and it can function as a secondary income generator,”

(Source)

I am excited with this primarily because it now means individual home users (who all this while been powerless against electricity tariff hike) would be able to generate their own power by selling it back to TNB. The net between the two could mean a substantial saving for house owners.

Having said that, the issue on everyone’s mind who intends to put up solar panels up their roof would certainly be the cost:-

The most obvious reason for the slow uptake of solar PV is cost. Generally, PV electricity costs three to five times more compared to electricity from conventional sources. A houseowner who wants to install a rooftop system with a capacity of 4kWp (kilowatt peak) can expect to fork out no less than RM60,000, based on current prices for PV modules and related accessories. A single kilowatt of installed capacity is around RM15,000, which is a lot cheaper than the figure of RM31,410 per kW in 2005.

The other side of the “expensive PV cost” coin is that consumers are not paying the real cost of electricity, given that tariffs are massively subsidised, both directly and indirectly (through cheap natural gas from Petronas).

The starting cost of RM60,000 is not cheap – and if one offsets the electricity bill that they usually pay to TNB and computes the return of the surplus power to TNB, the ROI will not be that great in the short run. However in the long run, it is expected a ROI of at least 9.7% based on the following case study:-

A double storey terrace house owner installed a 3kWp Roof Integrated PV System at a cost of RM54,000 in 2011. Assume system yield of 1,200kWh/kWp/year in Kuala Lumpur – total system yield = 3,600kWh/annum

The system is qualified for:-

  • Installed capacity up to and including 4 kWp (FiT rate of RM1.23)
  • Additional for installation in buildings or building structures (FiT rate of RM0.26)
  • Additional for use as building material (FiT rate of RM0.25)

He’s selling RM1.23+0.26+0.25= RM 1.74/kWh which translate to an revenue of RM6,264.00/year. The simple payback of the system is 8.6 years for the system. The Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for the investment is approximately 9.7%.

(Source)

Additional power from a cleaner source would also means there is less impact on the environment which the same cannot be said on another so-called “cleaner” power source called nuclear power.

According to Kettha, on a cumulative basis, FiT can help Malaysia slash some 46 million tonnes of CO2 from the power generation sector by 2020 if the country manages to generate at least 3,000MW from RE sources by then. If Malaysia can bump up its RE capacity to 7,000MW (a target for 2030), it could theoretically save 166 million tonnes of CO2 from being produced.

Certainly we should have introduced this a long time ago.

Read the FAQs here and here