The “Tidak Apa” Syndrome


To those who are not familiar with this expression, “tidak apa” may mean many things but for me it is loosely translated as “don’t care attitude”. Instead of saying that it is something unique to this country, I would rather say that it is the sick curse in this country. Some people are simply don’t care on their services, the work they do, the quality of products that they produce and on the impact of their shoddy work and attitude on others.

Let’s focus on the quality of goods – the reason for this post this week.

Quality of goods that we have in this country, generally is acceptable provided we are willing to pay the high price for it. There are several occasions when I had bought certain things, it had turned to be poorly made item. Quality control still lacking – either the manufacturer does not have the right quality control processes in place (are they that ignorant?) or they don’t take the trouble to pay that extra money or effort to produce high quality products. You go to any car workshop and when asked for the quality parts, they will usually quote parts from Japan (and sometimes from the US or Germany) but rarely from Malaysia. Parts from Malaysia is usually for those who want to buy things cheap and willing to compromise on quality, so they say and often there is some truth to it. This is the general state of the impression on Malaysian made goods and its quality although in recent years, quite number of manufacturers (such as Proton with their Preve’ model) and distributors have buck up on the level of quality considerably.

Here’s my case at hand:-

1

(Exhibit No 1 – Nano water filter that is made in or with Korean technology and conforms to international standards and member of a number of water quality associations as displayed on the box. Look at the condition of the sealant at the bottom and it is well made)

2

(Exhibit No 2 – the same nano water filter but distributed by a local company with no information as to where it is made and whether it conforms to any standards and it is not hard to see why. Look at the condition of the filter and you may wonder why this has not been rectified before it is sold to the public – lack of quality is too obvious)

I buy water filters for my portable water filters and I usually buy in a bigger numbers as I usually change the filters on a regular basis. Stocking up water filters is also part of my prepping strategy. The first image at the top is what I expect a good water filter should look like and the second image is a water filter distributed by a local distributor. You can see difference in quality immediately and since lately the hypermarket that I usually go to had stocked up only the locally distributed water filters and stop selling the one I usually buy (I seriously do not know why), for that instance I had no choice but use the local distributor’s filter despite the obvious lack of quality and being sold for the same price as the better quality made ones. At the end, it does not really do the job (and is a health hazard) no thanks to the shoddy quality of the sealant and I replaced it within the same day (and dispose off the water filtered). Money and time wasted – so I made my case with the place where I bought the filters and I was assured that the matter would be brought to the attention of the manufacturer. Whether things will change or not, I am not sure but I would not be buying any items from the same distributor until I see a real improvement of quality. But if this “tidak apa” attitude continues, rest assured that locally made products will be looked with grave suspicion.

And that is not the end of “tidak apa” attitude that I recently encountered.  One good place to see the “tidak apa” attitude at work on a regular basis is on Malaysian roads. It does not take long to see idiots changing lanes without indicating and jumping queues without any care of the rest of the motorists patiently waiting in line for their turn. And there is the mother of “tidak apa” attitude when you see a motorcyclist – not the one riding 250cc and above bikes but rather those 100cc – 150 cc puny bikes. A sudden change of lane, riding without any helmets (or license) and against the traffic by these bikers is nothing new and I have written a number of posts on this.

Just a couple days ago, I saw a black Audi driver (plate number WJJ ****) on the fast lane of the highway just after Seremban and was blocking an ambulance on its path. The weather was bad and despite the ambulance blaring siren and strobe lights (a clear cut sign of emergency), the idiot behind the wheels of the black Audi simply drove on the same lane as if he owed the road. Breaking the law and endangering the patient in the ambulance seemed to be last thing in the Audi driver’s mind. I just hope that one day when his loved ones (or himself) is in the ambulance, he will know how precious time is and the need for the ambulance to have its way without an idiot with a “tidak apa” attitude blocking its way.

Then the next day when we went to one of the fast food restaurant (which should have a better customer service than this), we were rudely reminded that despite that the restaurant is part of a global franchise and carries a well known brand, it is at the end of the day is manned by Malaysians with the usual “tidak apa” attitude. We went on a “working day” and before the normal lunch time so naturally the restaurant was not full but we had to wait for our tables to be cleared (it was only cleared when we came over). We ordered our food and we managed to get most of it but not the forks and spoons. We had to call one of the staff twice to remind on this and only then we got the utensils (whilst our food was getting cold). We did not get all of the food that we ordered so once again we need to remind the staff. Then I guessed that the staff do not understand English – which explains the blur look when I asked for the forks and spoons. And we were not the only one faced this problem. When I went to counter to pay, one of the customer was complaining very loudly and remarked that she had not seen service this bad in such restaurant. Instead of apologizing or assuring the customer that they will look into the quality of service, the lady behind the counter (the manager seems to be missing despite the loud voice of the customer) kept quiet and maintain her “tidak apa” look, making customer (and me) irritated even more.

The same “tidak apa” attitude is probably what causes the blatant waste of public funds as reported in the AG’s report on almost yearly basis. No one seemed to care that the money that they waste does not even belongs to them and the fact that they are expected to be responsible for the expenditures does not move them for the better. To make things even worse, the Government maintains the same “tidak apa” gesture towards the wrongdoers – remember the Home Minister supporting the lost at sea comment? By not whacking the wrongdoers, they actually condones the waste of public funds and corrupt way of doing business.

And speaking about the ‘tidak apa” attitude at Government level, it’s high time we relook into the “dump the dumb politicians” call. The next general election may be years away but it does not mean that we can close one eye (and ears) whenever an idiot takes the center stage and makes a fool of this nation & its people (never mind if he makes a fool of himself outside his official stature). After all, if a politician can come out and say that the recent increase of the price of sugar due to *cough* motherly concern on the people’s health and sex drive and not because failure to control expenses or because some one had screwed up the sugar import deal, something is not right (even for a die hard pejuang bangsa dan agama). But that is fine in a way – we don’t expect politicians to change their skin overnight (maybe except when elections are around the corner when they turn Santa Claus left right and center) and in Malaysia in particular, expecting them to be charged & punished for wrongdoings but we cannot continue with our own “tidak apa” attitude too. For start, for those who have not register yourself to vote (and probably don’t care which clown runs the country), try do something about it – go and register yourself to vote and then exercise the right to vote someone more credible. The country belongs to all and each one of us have a great responsibility one way or another in making sure it does not goes down the drain.

Think about it for a second…

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Radioactive Sea Dump


(The crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, conveniently situated next to the Pacific Ocean is now using the same ocean as dumping ground. Image source: http://www.eternian.wordpress.com)

In case you had opted to your waste time and concentrate on the sleazy “alleged sex video of an opposition leader” over real issues facing the world, here is a quick recap of something that happened last few days:-

Workers at Japan’s quake-hit nuclear plant have begun dumping water with low levels of contamination into the sea to free up room to store more highly radioactive water leaking at the site.

About 11,500 tonnes of water will be released into the sea at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The water to be released into the sea contains some 100 times the legal limit of radiation – a relatively low level, says the BBC’s Roland Buerk in Tokyo.

“As it is not harmful to people’s health and as it is necessary to avert an even bigger danger, we decided it was inevitable,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa).

(Source)

And this:-

Tepco says the low-radioactive water it intends to deliberately release into the sea has iodine-131 levels that are about 100 times the legal limit.

But it stressed in a news conference on Monday that if people ate fish and seaweed caught near the plant every day for a year, their radiation exposure would still be just 0.6 millisieverts. Normal background radiation levels are on the order of 2 millisieverts per year.

Getting the mildly contaminated water off-site would permit the emergency staff to then start pumping out the turbine building and the much more radioactive liquid in its basement.

(Source)

An interesting statement – “that if people ate fish and seaweed caught near the plant every day for a year, their radiation exposure would still be just 0.6 millisieverts”. Did they tested this hypothesis on a real person or it is all about statistics & formulas or statement made on assumption that people are dumb?

The latest news from Japan is that they have managed to stop the nuclear leak and if we think that we have overcome the worse, this is rather unsettling:-

“The situation is not under control yet,” said Thomas Grieder, Asia analyst at forecasting firm IHS Global Insight.

“Tepco’s decision to displace the contaminated water into the ocean reflected the urgency of clearing the turbine buildings and trenches of radioactive water so as not to damage equipment needed for restoration of cooling systems.”

“It’s only going to get worse. They are going to be forced to make a tough decision soon.

What they are going to have to release is likely to be highly radioactive. The situation could politically be very ugly in a week,” said Murray Jennex at San Diego State University, who specialises in nuclear containment.

“To put the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in perspective, Chernobyl involved a single operating reactor core,” said Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear, a US radioactive waste watchdog.

“Fukushima Daiichi now involves three reactors in various stages of meltdown and containment breach, and multiple (spent fuel storage) pools at risk of fire,” said Kamps.

(Source)

11,500 million liters of low-radioactive water (as reported, equivalent size of 5 Olympic sized swimming pool) has been officially dumped into the Pacific Ocean and untold amount may have been leaked into the ocean since day one of tsunami.

(Fancy eating fish with 6 eyes? Dumping low radioactive water may not be harmful to humans in the short term but what about long term? Image source: http://www.edwardcheever.wordpress.com)

Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says that the low-radioactive water is not harmful to people’s health but have long term effect of this has been studied? What about the effect on the marine life around the place where the low-radioactive water was dumped? Have we not learned anything from the Chernobyl disaster where the effect on health is still felt some 25 years after the disaster?

India took a more drastic action by banning on all food imports coming from Japan for 3 months or more. What about in Malaysia? I’m surprised we have not raised the alarm although sale of seafood in the local market have dropped drastically. Our Health Minister had said that “Malaysia is taking steps to ensure the imported food from Japan is not contaminated by the radiation leaked from the Japanese nuclear power plant” but did not disclose further details.

Earth Hour 2011


(Please bear with BJ as he is going through the unusual slow blogging phase – the write up on his new speed machine remains half done, damn!)

(The idea is to create awareness – not only among the ordinary citizens of the world but also organizations and governments. Image source: http://www.hurting.wordpress.com)

Whilst the world is busy with the nuclear crisis in Japan (which remains serious), here’s an event that marks the need for cleaner and renewable source of energy in light of global climate change. Earth Hour 2011 will be held at 8:30 pm on Saturday 26th March 2011 – details here.

Please mark the date in your calendar and help to spread the awareness and the need to change positive action on global climate change.

And whilst we are on nuclear crisis in Japan, there was an interesting letter in theSun on why we should not go for nuclear power in Malaysia. In case you had missed it, here it is – it does make a compelling point why we should not have a nuclear plant on our own backyard:-

Why nuclear power is not for us

Radioactive waste
No country has been able to satisfactorily store its atomic waste which lasts for thousands of years. US and Canada each have more than 60,000 tonnes of spent uranium fuel stored on site. After spending US$9 billion (RM27.5 billion) on Yucca Mountain, the US still cannot decide whether to use it (it was designed for 70,000 tons and is on a volcanic structure).

It limits clean energy.
Every ringgit spent on nuclear is not available for green energy, energy conservation and energy efficiency. It is an inflexible, expensive, time constrained method of electricity generation and not as environmentally friendly as publicised. The reactors have a finite life span, are expensive to build and decommission, and have to be guarded around the clock.

It is not completely safe.
Safe nuclear power is a myth. The nuclear industry knows that the risk of major nuclear accident is real and requires a special law, the Nuclear Liability Act, to protect it financially from the liability of accidents.

Nuclear power plants are a terrorist or war targets.
Such plants are attractive to terrorists because of their importance to electricity supply, the consequences of radioactive releases and their symbolic character. Imagine the effects of a plane crashing on the stockpile of radioactive caskets or the plant or in the event of hostilities, being hit by a bomb or cruise missile.

Nuclear power plants are unreliable.
There is no guarantee that these power generators will be free from maintenance problems and history is full of stories of generators being shut down because of poor performance or safety concerns, such as happened in Ontario in 1997 when eight of the province’s 20 reactors went awry, turning to coal and gas generation when this happened. It ended up adding more CO2 to the atmosphere and billions of dollars to repair.

Nuclear power is a cause of nuclear arms proliferation.
If we value peace then we should consider this as a poor alternative to renewables. “In theory, reprocessing spent fuel and recycling it in fast breeder reactors reduces the quantity of uranium mined and leaves more of the waste in forms that remain radioactive for only a few centuries rather than many millennia. But in practice, it is problematic because it is expensive, reduces waste only marginally (unless an extremely costly and complex recycling infrastructure is built which will add US$1-2 billion to the cost), and increases the risk that the plutonium in the spent fuel will be used to make nuclear weapons,” says physicist Frank N von Hippel. In the US, three fast breeder reactors closed and Sellafield in UK was also closed temporarily while only the La Hague in France is still open and Rokkaso-Mura in Japan is under testing.

Radioactive emissions
There is a definite increase in radioactivity around nuclear power stations, with particulate pollutants such as tritium going into the air, soil and water and consequently into the food chain. This increases the risk of cancer, leukaemia and birth defects. The incidence of leukaemia among children of workers at Sellafield is twice the national average. Since 1990, 18 cases of leukaemia were reported in children around Kruemmel, one of Germany’s nuclear plants, which is three times the national average. At one conference, Gloria Hsu Kuang-Jun showed data that showed vicinity infant death rates and cancer rates decreasing substantially within two to seven years after nuclear plants closed down.

It is expensive.
Many nuclear plants undergo massive cost over-runs and delays, a burden to the general population in terms of debt and bills incurred for long-term management of radioactive waste. In Finland, a third generation reactor was supposed to be built from August 2005 to May 2009 but it is now scheduled to be ready by December 2011 with a massive 60% cost overrun on the €3.2 billion (RM13.8 billion) project.

Claims that nuclear energy is cheap are based on hidden assumptions. Huge subsidies are ignored such as research and development, enrichment of uranium, insurance liability, waste storage, and decommissioning. And since nuclear power has high capital costs and lower operating cost, its proponents choose unrealistically low interest/discount rate or accounting methods that shrink interest and capital repayments. In UK, there is a fossil fuel levy of up to £1.3 billion (RM6.5 billion) a year to “subsidise” nuclear power after electricity privatisation in 1990’s. Nuclear subsidies in the US already top US$100 billion.

Not the answer to climate change.
It is certainly not that carbon friendly. Moreover there is a long lead time to build and operate a plant, whereas a solar or wind power installation would need much less time. Even China can only plan to generate 6% of electricity by 2020 from nuclear which is currently 2.5%. But it plans to target renewable energy to 16% by the same year; simply because it is more feasible. Sunny Spain has about 30 solar thermal plants under construction and may have 8,000 megawatts installed by 2020. Malaysia is the third largest producer of solar cells, has abundant sunshine and puny solar installations.

It is not popular.
Nowhere in the world is the population enamoured by nuclear power because of cost overruns, government subsidies borne by the masses, poor performance, mounting stockpiles of waste, health problems with accidents, security concerns and others. Tenaga Nasional Bhd is considering building a Generation III/III+ Evolutionary Design reactor.

If Malaysians have to subsidise power generation let it be for solar/wind or other less dangerous methods.

Dr Thong Kok Wai
Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility

(Source: TheSun)

Interestingly, a couple days ago, there was another letter in theStar as to why we should go for nuclear power – I did not read in detail into it but similar arguments found in the letter was found here – in this WSJ’s 2008 post titled “The Case For and Against Nuclear Power”.

The counter arguments were:-

The argument for nuclear power can be stated pretty simply: We have no choice.

If the world intends to address the threat of global warming and still satisfy its growing appetite for electricity, it needs an ambitious expansion of nuclear power.

Scientists agree that greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, are building up in the atmosphere and contributing to a gradual increase in global average temperatures. At the same time, making electricity accounts for about a third of U.S. greenhouse emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels to produce power.

Nuclear power plants, on the other hand, emit virtually no carbon dioxide — and no sulfur or mercury either. Even when taking into account “full life-cycle emissions” — including mining of uranium, shipping fuel, constructing plants and managing waste — nuclear’s carbon-dioxide discharges are comparable to the full life-cycle emissions of wind and hydropower and less than solar power.

And on the issues raised by most anti-nuclear power lobbyists:-

So, what’s the case against nuclear power? It boils down to two things: economics and safety.

One reason it’s so expensive at this point is that no new plant has been started in the U.S. since the last one to begin construction in 1977. Lenders — uncertain how long any new plant would take because of political and regulatory delays — are wary of financing the first new ones. So financing costs are unusually high. As we build more, the timing will be more predictable, and financing costs will no doubt come down as lenders become more comfortable

The next generation of plants is designed to be even safer, using fewer pumps and piping and relying more on gravity to move water for cooling the hot nuclear core. This means fewer possible places where equipment failure could cause a serious accident.

And even if a serious accident does occur, U.S. plants are designed to make sure that no radiation is released into the environment. Reactors are contained inside a huge structure of reinforced concrete with walls that are as much as four feet thick; the Chernobyl reactor lacked such a structure.

Yes, there are plenty of arguments for and against nuclear power and until we will be able to harness enough juice to power the world economies, nuclear plant may be the way of the future.

(Science fiction or something we have yet to put our thoughts and resources in?  The technology that drives huge starships across many galaxies in the Star Trek world. may mean something when it comes to new energy source. Image source here)

In my one of my favorite series, Star Trek, the starships uses the warp drive which is a faster-than-light (FTL) propulsion system. Here’s the interesting part of warp drive:-

A primary component of the warp drive method of propulsion in the Star Trek universe is the “gravimetric field displacement manifold,” more commonly referred to as a warp core.

It is a fictional reactor which taps the energy released in a matter-antimatter annihilation to provide the energy necessary to power a starship’s warp drive, allowing faster-than-light travel.

Starship warp cores generally also serve as power plants for other primary ship systems.

And despite it is being in the far future, nothing remains safe:-

If the containment fields ever fail, the subsequent interaction of the antimatter fuel with the container walls would result in a catastrophic release of energy, with the resultant explosion capable of utterly destroying the ship.

So, yes, in the far future, we do need another source of energy once the fossil fuel have depleted – after all, it is not renewable.  At  the end, we still need to look into renewable clean energy like solar (the good ones powers 85% of the energy need of offices and homes and there’s plenty of sunshine in Malaysia all time around) and wind or the dreadful nuclear plant. We will cross that road when the time comes to pick the available options.

But the call for nuclear plant in Malaysia has additional unique “Malaysian” factors that need to be considered – rather seriously by those in power.

1. Is there really need for more energy in Malaysia now? There always been a contention that we have an oversupply of power in Malaysia and we been paying too much to IPPs with heavy subsidies from the Government as well. What about the 12 hydro-dams planned in East Malaysia in 2008? Have we been focusing on creating the supply first before there is a real demand for it?

(The infamous roof collapse in Malaysia – what do we really lack to an extend a new roof can just collapse – serious attitude problem or rightful skill and expertise? Image source: TheStar)

2. The “tidak apa” culture of Malaysians – how many times we have heard of roof of newly constructed buildings falling down? Poor design, lack of enforcement, subcontracting to unknown cronies or to those bristling with poor and bad records, has been part and parcel of construction of key infrastructures in Malaysia.

3. Enforcement of strict laws and execution of punishments to those who have failed safety and building standards. I dread the thought of enforcement of strict safety standards of building a new nuclear plant in the hands of the local “majlis perbandaran”. Since the time we had the Highland Towers tragedy, news of landslides due to poor enforcement and monitoring keep cropping up.

Or on those developers who flout regulations and slapped with stop work orders, just how many of them have been booked for continuing with the development work until something dreadful happens?

4. Escalating cost of construction – this one no need to say lah – we are famous for mismanagement of public funds for many, many years now and I don’t think it is going to change a bit when we lay out the “initial costing” of constructing a nuclear plant. Actual construction cost is one thing – as usual, in Malaysia, this would soon be followed by issue of an undisclosed “commissions” to be paid out upfront, maintenance costs, training, the “sudden” increase of construction cost, etc to contend with. Of course, are we going to see it happen without open tender and in shroud of secrecy.

Constructing new nuclear plant costs anything between $3 – $7 billion and then there is a separate operating cost that covers security, safety, purchase of uranium fuel (about $59/lb), waste disposal management (costs between £67,000/m3 and £201,000/m3) and finally decommissioning the plant (it cost $300 million or more to shut down and decommission a plant). These of course exclude the cost of compensation and clean up should the unthinkable happen (all information sourced here).

For now, switching the light for an hour this 26th March 2011 is a good start. The tough choice that we need to do in the near future is to decide whether we really need nuclear power for our energy needs but also whether we have the right people, design, policies, laws, enforcement manpower and the funds in place before we take the giant leap.

After all, if the Japanese with all the know-how, technology, discipline and money is facing a bleak future with its nuclear reactors after the 2011 tsunami, what more of us in Malaysia? Truthfully, we are yet to reach the level necessary to construct and manage and nuclear plant in Malaysia.

One would just hope that the Government would not rush in the issue of having a nuclear plant in Malaysia and takes it’s time to get all things in place before it decides to have one.