“Professor” D


Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google appear

(Still remember Geordi La Forge from the famed Star Trek the Next Generations with his high-tech eye-wear? We may be seeing technology catching up on the low profile eye-wear with Google’s Glass Project and that could be start of things to come. Who knows, perhaps we can even replace our human eyes with its limitations with a high-tech robotic eyes? Image source: http://resourcemagonline.com)

This year could mark an important year in my son’s life – it is the year he started to wear a spectacle. It was something we did not expect to happen so soon but since he had complained that he could not see what is being written on the blackboard from the back of the class and thus missing to copy down some assignment, we knew we need to act fast. We had talked to his teacher and got him to sit in front but in the long run, it was not that helpful. It is either we play ignorant whilst he continue to fall back on his studies and his eye-sight get worse or get him to see a eye doctor and then a proper spectacles.

It was the same dilemma that probably faced my Dad when I said the same thing many, many years ago when I too had the same problem. But back in the 1980s, wearing a spectacle seemed to be a big taboo sort of. Perhaps it is due to the size of spectacles back then – it was not small, looked ugly and came without added technology such as multi-coating, high index and light sensitive lens. Contact lens was almost non-existence. And given the fact that no one in the family (and that included those at my uncles and aunties side) wears a spectacle, you were looked at like an alien when you wear one in front of them.

It took some sound advice from my class teacher to get my Dad to “see things from my point of view” and we were off to see an optician. Let’s just say that things gotten clearer since then. And my son remarked the same when he got his “stylist” spectacles. And things have changed too – instead of the usual weird looks from our relatives, it seemed more acceptable now for one to wear spectacles especially if you read a lot of books. One even remarked that my son now looks like a professor.

Perhaps there is another point on view on why we should not be wearing spectacles:-

The problem with glasses and contacts are that they are crutches. Just like using leg crutches to help you walk when you are recovering from a broken or injured leg, glasses give you the instant gratification of being able to suddenly see clearly with eyes that have lost the ability to focus well on their own.

Glasses are a quick fix indeed! However, they don’t address the root cause that allowed your eyes to get out of shape in the first place: deformation of the actual shape of the eye. Myopia (near-sightedness) is caused by elongation of the eye; hyperopia (far-sightedness) by the eye becoming shorter in length.

And just as one’s leg would never fully recover, but would actually become weaker, if you continued to use crutches indefinitely, the use of corrective lenses allows your eye to become progressively weaker — either more myopic or hyperopic, as the case may be. The use of laser surgery may seem to be the best of all fixes, by permanently re-sculpting the cornea. But the risks and complications can be significant, and continued bad vision habits can result in the need for repeat surgery.

(Source)

It does makes some sense but it takes a lot of practice and patience to maintain the “eyes exercise” and get on with daily activities without wearing any spectacles. Certainly it is not an easy thing to do. Otherwise many opticians would have gone out of business fast. But moving forward, things may change in the near future – we one day may not need to wear spectacles:-

Short-sightedness, or myopia, which makes distant objects appear blurred, often begins in childhood, and it appears to be growing in the UK – now affecting about one in three British adults. But a scientific breakthrough announced this week could start to reduce that number within a decade.

Scientists based in London have identified a gene that causes myopia and are confident that drugs could be developed to halt the distorted growth of the eye that brings about the condition. In about 10 years, short-sightedness could be cured through eye drops, says Dr Chris Hammond, who led the research at King’s College London.

(Source)

Coming back to my son wearing one, we do try to get him to be less dependant on his spectacles by getting him to do some basic eyes exercise and to use his eyes unaided if possible. Not that we have anything ugly against him wearing spectacles – we just worried that it will deter him from his usual active activities. But he proved us dead wrong the very next day – wearing a spectacle however did not deter him from his usual active activities – he still flies through his swimming practices on the weekends, setting faster pace every week and remains active in school as well. Of course, that causes us to constantly reminding him to be careful with his spectacles. He do forgets that he is wearing one especially when he high-jumps on the bed whenever he comes to our bedroom.

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Dump the Dumb Politicians


(Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious. – George Orwell)

Read these first:-

(The conceptual video relating to Google’s recent announcement of their revolutionary Project Glass – assuming that nothing tragic happens in December 2012 and things goes on as usual thereafter, we must recognize that the future is all about information at finger tips and on how it gets distributed and used in our daily lives. It will be a very technological and intelligent world – will we have the right smart leaders to lead us then?)

We all know what we expect from people who want to run for public office and we usually expect them to live by the highest standards. And one standard we need to impress on all “winnable” candidates from now onwards (other than able to stay clear from dirty politics, corruption, racial preference, misuse of tax-payers money and lack of credibility & integrity) is to have a reasonable sense of intelligence.

Just read this statement from a politician recently:-

The armed forces will not support the opposition if the latter attacks the purchase of military equipment.

Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Latiff Ahmad said that those politicising military matters risked hurting the feelings of Malaysia’s soldiers.

Though he did not specifically label the opposition, he told the Dewan Rakyat: “When it is politicised, our soldiers feel hurt. It doesn’t matter if (they’re) from the navy, ground (forces) or from the air (force).”

“Each time the government makes a decision to procure new assets, they (the military) are very happy, because they are trained to be a professional army. “So if that party… the more they condemn these assets, the more support the Barisan Nasional federal government gets,” he said.

(Source)

The Minister may think he is saying some important but all he does is exhibit a clear absent of intelligence. Read it again – the Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Latiff Ahmad said that those politicizing military matters risked hurting the feelings of Malaysia’s soldiers and the more they condemn these assets, the more support the Barisan Nasional federal government gets.

Huh?

If the soldiers are really pissed off and because of this, they are going to vote more for the BN government (hmm, not that their postal votes have not been “sodomised” in past elections), what the Minister babbling about? Does this works rather nicely to him and his political party? So, what he is complaining about? Ok, ok, say what, let’s leave that obvious question aside. Let’s assume he has a point (by stretching our imagination, of course).

Let’s ask whether it is what the opposition politicians have been harping on all this time – on the question why we are buying new military assets? Is it that or is it on the question why we are paying through our noses for the much needed military assets when the same or better assets could be bought at a cheaper price?

Is it that or on the question on why we have to pay millions ringgit of “commission” to crony linked companies or dubious individuals with no proper track record (err, sorry I meant clean track record in military industry, not the history of getting commissions for nothing) for additional contracts that the military can manage on their own. Which of these the soldiers really want – the opposition keeping quiet and end up having taxpayer’s money paid (in millions) to some politician linked individuals for dubious military contracts (with more for bailouts later) or the opposition making plenty of noise so much so the Government is topped at their tracks and is forced to think twice and forced to tighten the procurement procedures and then reuse the money saved for other beneficial things (like ex-serviceman welfare or perhaps modernization of other aging military assets)? Read this for a response from the ex-servicemen.

Abdul Latiff fellow is just one example of mainstream politician making “dumb statements” in recent times – with elections around the corner, please expect more unknown, dumb politicians from both sides, making plenty of “not-so-intelligent” statements in public. They have to – this is the only way for them to promote themselves so that they still deemed relevant when the calls for “winnable candidates” comes crunching. As usual, some will try to be heroes (there is always 1 or 2) and will go one step ahead – they not only speak dumb but they will act dumb as well.

The point is if we can’t see their intelligence in handling trivial and domestic politics, how we expect them to handle greater things like the economy (with dwindling oil reserves), environment and education? Still remember the elected clowns wasting time in the Parliament talking about the cost of teh tarik and roti canai before they got whacked in 2008? Moving forward, we do not want similar clowns roaming around the Parliament wasting time on trivial matters.

The call for intelligent politicians is nothing new.

In 2011, Ali Kadir wrote this in the Malaysian Insider:-

Muhyiddin Yassin and Shafie Apdal (among Umno’s best and brightest judging by fact that one is the second in line to govern the country and the other is the third in line) need not apply. The two senior ministers are evidence of how hollow the ranks of leaders in Umno are.

Today, Shafie Apdal gave credence to the line that it is best to keep silent and keep up the illusion of competence rather than open your mouth and shatter it. He says that the government knows that the Bersih rally is all about politics. Wow, this is really enlightening.

And stuffing the ballot box, phantom voters and widening the base of postal voters is about what, exactly. Is it about keeping Muhyiddin, Shafie, Noh Omar, Hishammuddin Hussein, Khaled Nordin, Kong Chong Ha, Ng Yen Yen, Palanivel, Nazri Aziz employed?

The fact that is shocking is that not only do we have to deal with corruption, abuse of power. But we are asked to suffer fools. We would not tolerate some of these people as our subordinates. Why are we letting them govern us?

(Source)

In the first case, if I was Abdul Latiff, I would have just keep my mouth shut and just focus on what I suppose to do in the best interest of those under my Ministry. And a large chunk of it would have been on how military assets could be procured without incurring additional cost and without quality of the said assets short-changed. That would be the smarter thing to do. That would be the right thing to do. But if he can’t do that – given how corrupt the system has been, the least he could do is just keep his mouth shut.

I am not sure if we can ever make a positive dent in the political arena in Malaysia with the current range of politicians (some of them are Neanderthals in form of Homo sapiens and deserved to be locked away in museums) but we need to make sure that with every general elections that comes along, there must be evolution for the better. The world is changing – it is getting smaller, faster and wiser. We need the right quality of people that can lead the nation in this ever-changing world. They may not be like the intelligence, revolutionary Thomas Jefferson but at the very minimum, they must be intelligent enough to embrace new way of thinking and doing things. They must have the ability to make wise decisions in challenging times. They must have the ability to accept criticisms and instead replying with dirty politics, response admirably with short term and long term solutions.

And as we head towards another general election, let’s review back on how that all politicians (both from BN and PR and some of the independents – excluding the Perkasa moron, of course) have behaved in the past and how intelligent they has talked and acted on the constituency, state and national issues. Those who have failed have no place whatsoever in public office in the near future. The question is – are we intelligent enough to do that in the up coming general elections?

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Mindef Translation vs Proper English


(Countdown – 343 days to “doomsday”)

Well, it is rather embarrassing indeed.

Unspun, well known Indonesian blogger writes:-

There was once upon a time when it was universally accepted that Malaysian had a better command of the English language than Indonesians.

It wasn’t arrogance then, just a fact of life because of Malaysia’s British colonial history. For all the sins of the Brits Malaysians could be grateful to them for leaving behind an efficient civil service and a love for the Queen’s English.

But much has changed since those days. The hypocrite Mahathir Mohamad, in trying to display his nationalistic credentials changed the medium of instruction in schools from English to Malay. That, and other misguided nationalistic sentiments since then has seen the steady deterioration of the use of English among Malaysians.

One can safely argue that a certain work ethic also went out the window with the need to learn and master a language. So it seemed inevitable when Malaysia’s Ministry of Defense was red-faced recently because the language skills were so bad that they relied on Google Translate to render their copy into English.

And if one thinks that the worse is over, Nuraina A Samad further writes:-

In fact, the entire English version of its website – as of 12 noon today – is in BM. As a way of “explaining”, you’ll find the articles and writings with a preceding note: There are no translations available.

Perhaps, it’s still being done manually as explained by its minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Hard work, I reckon. What gives, man? Google translation all this while? I suggest the ministry gets the right people to do the job…Kalau tidak, one word: Malu (shame).

As much as we want to promote and defend the national language (which is a must for national unity and national identity), we seemed to have missed the greater point of the need to learn and master one of the main languages in the world – English.

For those who still arguing on using Bahasa Malaysia over the more widely used English on everything you touch, well blame it on our ancestors – they failed to wise up, start the all important Industrial Revolution, build huge & powerful army and go and colonise other countries in a larger scale. If they have done, the Americans and the Indians would have been speaking fluent Bahasa instead of English right now.

Unfortunately that did not happen – too bad for those who dislike learning and speaking in English. So whether you like it or not, the English language is here to stay and I think we need not go to the argument of why mastering the English language is very crucial in a global village these days.

And unfortunately despite the overwhelming merits, we have gone the other way and made things worse in this country – we have fooled ourselves and the future generations by deciding to teach Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia instead of the widely used English, setting off another set of problems. There is already a lack of Science & Mathematics books in Bahasa Malaysia. It seems like we may not have the right people and resources (at least in short term) to do accurate translation from English to Bahasa (or are we going to use Google Translate for that too?). The impact of this in the near future on our standard of English and the mastery of Science and Mathematics is yet to be seen (thank God for the Discovery channel for a way out).

There is nothing wrong with Ministry of Defence relying on Google Translate for the translation of webpages in Bahasa to English. But the thing is, even if one had used Google Translate for ease of translating the many webpages, surely someone in their right mind would have at least read the translated pages once, just to make sure that translation does not turn out wrong or false.

Unspun in his follow up post titled “Did Malaysia’s Defense Minister frame Google?” reported this:-

Malaysia’s Defense Minister Ahmad Zahidi Hamid, whose Ministry became the laughing stock in Malaysia because of the use of outlandish English translations on its website (e.g. Menjolok mata = poke eye) blamed Google Translate for the mistakes.

Really?

Blogger Uppercaise further asks – was Google at fault, or the ministry? Was the defence minister telling the truth, or trying to pass blame to others? This table (sourced from Uppercaise) consists of a few examples and it is evident that something is not right with the Minister blaming Google:-

The embarrassment with the wrong translation at Mindef is possibly a tip of the iceberg. What about the rest of the public administration – starting from the lowest level of public servant and all the way to the top – Ministers and Heads of Departments and CEOs. Just how many of the politicians heading key positions in the Government can really speak and write good English? Still remember this bullshit:-

However, he was forced to resign as Selangor Mentri Besar in April 1997 after he was charged in Australia over currency irregularities amounting to RM3.8mil. However, he was later found not guilty. Muhammad Muhammad Taib was cleared by the court as he pleaded that he did not understand English and therefore did not understand the currency regulations. However, in a later development, an investigative committee found that the court had erred in its judgment.

If he was not punished for the dubious RM3.8 million, given the fact that he was once the head of a state government, he certainly should have been punished for claiming not knowing English language when traveling to a country where the main language is English. Perhaps in the near future, when a politician proposes to run for public office, other than the usual meeting the minimum codes of ethics, they must be speak and write Bahasa and English well – no more Bahasa pasar, Manglish and half-cooked languages.

In the meantime, hopefully this embarrassing incident will pass over soon and Mindef is more cautious when it comes to translations in future and engages and trains its people in the proper use of the language.

And oh yes, next time when the Ministry screws up things, please don’t do any cover-ups – just admit that there is a weakness and work on a real solution to overcome them. The world is not so dumb as it used to be.

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1Email: Worst Case Scenario


(Dealing with “not so up-to-date with latest technology” government servants on official business can be tricky at times – especially when things are not so clear like the use of free, secured emails for official communications. Image source: Flickr)

It may not happen but still, this is the Bolehland that we are talking about. Whilst it is still too early to pour cold water on the myemail initiatives, here’s something we fear may happen.

One fine morning in a Government department sometime in the future…

Tax-payer: Good morning, I would like for my statements to be sent through my personal email since it will be easier for to retrieve it when I am traveling.

Govt Officer: No problem sir, please provide us with your myemail address and we will update our system immediately so that you can get statements effective next month

Tax-payer: Sorry, I don’t have one but I have others like Google email, Yahoo email and MSN email addresses.

Govt Officer: Sorry but we don’t accept other type of emails. You know, because it involves sensitive information, we need to be sure that email provided is secured. As you may be aware by now, myemail account has an authentication service which includes a MyKad-based authentication service layer

Tax-payer: But the other emails are secured as well. Google is one of the leading IT Company in the world which provides the widely used email facility. Certainly they would have taken care of email security before they rolled it out way back in 2007. Certainly 193.3 million users around the world including corporate users could not have gone wrong.

Govt Officer: Err, ok but you will get 25GB of email storage free – that is a lot compared to your gmail’s measly 7GB.

Tax-payer: 7GB is more than enough for me. I don’t intend to keep my sensitive information sitting idle on cyberspace. Once I receive the email, I intend to download or copy over the statements into my 2TB external hard-disc and have a backup somewhere.

Govt Officer: Hmmm, but if you want your statements via email, you still need myemail address.

Tax-payer: But it was announced that myemail is not compulsory and the public is allowed to use own personal emails

Govt Officer: I don’t know about that – I am just telling what you need to do. You know – orders from upstairs.

Tax-payer: Aiseh, leceh lah. Ok, ok…I will register for myemail – damn, I need my statements via email.

Tax-payer: By the way, the registration and use of myemail is free of charge, right?

Govt Officer: Err, ya, it is free in a way. The myemail provider will charge this department 50 cents per email sent.

Tax-payer: Ya, now I remember reading about it. If you accept my Google email address, you need not pay anything. As I recall, the myemail provider said that they are targeting something like 5.4 registered users. 5.4 million x 50 cents (silently doing a mental calculation)…means RM2.7 million per year per email sent. That is at very minimum. Why anyone want to waste RM2.7 million for nothing?

Govt Officer: Sorry, I cannot comment on that. I still need a valid myemail address before we can send you statements via email

Tax-payer: Damn!

I am NOT saying that Malaysians will be somehow be “forced” to subscribe myemail sometime in the near future – we are pretty that the Government will be sensible and intelligence enough to recognize that there are better options out there – options that is far less cheaper than the current proposed option.

However, in the past years, we have seen enough flip-flops from the Government to make us to swallow the “1email for all which will be on a voluntary basis and huge savings for the Government” propositions with a huge doubt

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