Speed Demons on Highway 2


(There is always a limit to everything we do and a limit to speeding is there for obvious reasons. Slow down and you will live longer. Some idiots would never learn no matter what happens when one speeds over the speed limit on the highway)

Driving on Malaysian highways often promises a good story for this blog and it is the case for this week and one that deal with speed demons on highways. About 9 years ago, I had a close encounter with a speed demon and a recent trip north saw  another close encounter with another speed demon.

But first read this first:-

At least 37 people were killed when a bus in a mountainous area of Malaysia plunged into a ravine on Wednesday, the country’s Bernama news agency said, citing rescue officials. There also were 16 people injured, and they were sent to hospitals, the report said.

There were 53 people on board. Among the dead were Bangladeshi, Thai and Chinese nationals. The bus driver also died. The bus was descending from Genting Highlands when it fell into a 200-feet-deep ravine, Bernama reported. The incident occurred near the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

(Source)

Back in August last year, the country saw one of the worst accident relating to express buses. Before that, back in 2011, there was another horrible accident involving express/tour buses where 28 people perished. And beginning this year when it comes to express buses, it was not good news either:-

Three people died and at least 14 injured when an express bus they were travelling in crashed at KM107.2 of the North-South Expressway, from Pagoh to Yong Peng today. The bus driver was believed to have lost control of the vehicle, causing it to crash into a railing and landing at the side of the highway at about 2pm.

The Star Online reported that the bus was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Johor with 17 passengers, including a number of foreigners. Two men and a 10-year-old boy were killed while seven passengers suffered serious injuries.

(Source)

Last weekend, we had to do a quick trip up North and it was sort of a last minute decision.

My mother in law was not well and my wife despite postponing the call to go and visit her somehow knew that time was up to visit her mother. So instead of going during CNY when one can expect sheer madness on highways, we decided to go one week earlier and come back the very next day. The highway was almost empty and we actually had empty tables at the famed R&R. There was the usual big bike convoys dominating the fast lane and having little care for the 110 km/h speed limit. The same went to Singapore registered cars – they were driving on the fast lane like they were on a private race track. The same also went to those with luxury car where the RM300 ticket for speeding would hardly made any dent on their pockets.

It was not the first time I encounter them but I seriously think that some of the idiots who uses the highway should be barred from using vehicles for life. I mean if they are bloody ignorant of the law, then at least they should have some common sense. They would either drive above the speed limit like their back is on fire (or hog the fast lane) and when confronted with another faster vehicle, they would dash into the slower lane without sense of space or the courtesy to put on the indicators to warn the slower traffic on the left. Some would cut in too close for comfort, completely ignoring the fact that there is another vehicle on the slow lane.

Then towards Ipoh, we saw something that left us speechless. There was a car overtook us on the fast lane and I know it was driven above the speed limit (I was already driving at 110 km/h then). Following just behind that speeding car is a police car but that too is driven above the speed limit. Well, I am fine with that but what irked me was that the police did nothing to pull over the speeding car and give the driver a speeding ticket. Perhaps the policeman had a bad stomach ache and rushing to the nearest toilet. Perhaps. But then again, it sends the wrong message and if the enforcement agencies keeps one eyes closed, you can be assured that there would not be the end of fiery deaths on the highway.

The stay with the in-laws was pretty short (it usually do, ha ha) but enough for me to take a good break for the trip back. My wife had fulfilled her part of the obligation and that was good enough, at least for now. The next day as usual we decided to leave early to KL. My sister in law and her 2 year old daughter followed us back and since there was plenty of space in my car, we were more than happy to accommodate them. I hardly drove more than 90 km/h and kept to the 110 km/h speed limit at certain part of the highway. And with a good selection of songs in my flash drive, it was a relaxing ride back.

aeroline_speeding2

(It took mere minutes for these 2 buses – there is another in front of this bus – to disappear from my sight despite we were traveling at about 110 km/h)

Some kilometers before Behrang (about 11.20 am on Sunday), I noticed something on my rear mirrors – not one but two speeding high deck express buses (High deck just like the high deck bus where 28 people died back in 2011). Knowing on how they usually fly through on the fast lane (and sometimes on the slow lane, adding the risks to other road users), I maintained on the middle lane and I was already cruising at 100 – 110 km/h. The first bus (Aeroline) bus flies through on the slow lane and quickly cut into the middle lane, a few paces in front of me. The second bus came right behind my car in the middle lane and started to flash his headlights (if we has stopped, I would bashed his head for coming up so close, endangering me and my family and flashing his headlights like a big dirty bully). He was trying to bully me to move over from the middle lane but since it was not safe to move over, I continued to drive on the middle lane, hoping that the idiot would move over on the fast lane. After all, he was faster than me – both buses was flying at about 140 km/h!

I got my son to snap some photos to be passed over to JPJ (hopefully they will blacklist these drivers) whilst I concentrated on driving. And I was quite angry too. Not only the idiots were endangering me and other road users with their deadly driving, they were also endangering the passengers. But the, when I went to Aeroline’s website, I read the biggest joke from the company titled “Safety”:-

AEROLINE coaches are built on high quality imported Scania (Sweden)chassis. AEROLINE operates its very own dedicated maintenance facility that is manned by experienced mechanics to maintain the coaches to our own standards, by using only quality parts.

Furthermore, each AEROLINE captain is hand picked and undergo regular training and monitoring. With the aid of GPS tracking system, our command centre is able to monitor the operation of each bus in real time, thus ensuring every journey a safe one.

(Source)

Ya right, perhaps who ever wrote that “safety” statement should hand pick himself to take up a trip in their Aeroline buses where driving at more than 140 km/h and weaving in & out dangerously on a high deck buses meant nothing for these drivers. One wrong move weaving in and out of traffic or one tire blow out or encounter with one inexperienced driver and you will have another 20 – 30 passenger on the ditch and dead. No matter what the politicians, the bus company owners & management and the public may say after a tragedy, it will not bring back the dead. But unfortunately Aeroline is not the only bus company that I noticed speeding above the speed limit (but that does not mean they are not guilty of sheer recklessness). Another bus (from another bus company) just behind these Aeroline buses was also speeding at 140 km/h and was also weaving in and out of traffic. Within minutes, all these buses had disappeared from our sight as far as we can see up front.

And one main reason for this is because there is a serious lapse of enforcement. It is a fact that we fare badly when it comes to enforcement and it is not due to the laziness of the enforcement agencies. Sometimes the need for a stricter enforcement is curtailed, not by shortcomings of the enforcement agencies but rather due to the short sighted & (very, very) dumb politicians who flip-flops enforcement related policies on weak reasons and shout for all the wrong reasons.

This is where we have to relook into the implementation of the Automated Enforcement System (AES) on a larger scale. This is where also, rather unfortunately, the Pakatan fellows failed us miserably – yes, initially there seemed to be some “questions” in awarding the AES implementation to the private companies but that was not the main concern here. It was clear that the Pakatan politicians were barking on the wrong tree and had been asking all the wrong questions. The main concern is to ensure a strict adherence to the traffic rules and AES would have provided that unbiased, all weather, 24 x 7 automated enforcement that the other enforcement agencies may not been to able to provide effectively.

And now, nation wide AES implementation seemed to be on hold and that is allowing more idiots to break the traffic laws on a greater scale. They know that they cannot be caught (forget the yearly Ops Sikap – one, it is done during major holidays when the highways are packed thus reducing the opportunity to fly like you were on a race track and two, these drivers know that the police is out there in a greater force to nab these offenders) . That is why on other “non festival” days bus drivers like the above Aerobus drivers do not hesitate for a second to drive dangerously on the highways and endangering others on the road. Some unlucky ones end up killing their passengers and the whole vicious cycles starts again.

And there is another aspect of strict enforcement, ahem, since Najib been going around saying that the Government does not enough money for subsidies and what not. The more drivers nabbed for violation of traffic rules (and trust me, you will get a truckload of them without a sweat), the more fines can be collected and these money can be re-used for critical Government expenses (flying the fat lady overseas in private jets however does not count).

Just imagine that in the first 1 week of the AES in operation, it captured 63,558 offenses (an average of one offense every two-and-a-half minutes). Even if you use a modest RM50 fine per offense (speeding ticket will cost RM300), the Government can easily collect RM300,000 per week. Imagine how much they can collect on monthly basis. That is a lot of money that can be used again to beef up enforcement (more AES cameras) and make the roads safer again. Insurance claims has not been cheap as well – “net claims paid out for bodily injury and property damage due to road accidents in the first nine months of 2013 have risen to RM4.1 billion, compared to RM3.68 billion in the same period in 2012”.

We may have one of the best highways in the region (we still do) but we also have the 3rd world mentality when it comes to using them in the right way and in a safe way. You can be rest assured that you going to have more buses speeding above the speed limit and more deaths from unsafe speeding vehicles if attitude and enforcement does not change.

Please keep this mind as you balik kampung this Chinese New Year. Enjoy the holidays and have a plenty of rest.

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Childhood Memories – Part 25


Read the series here

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(Long before mountain bikes, you still remember the BMX madness in the 1990s? I think  there should be a rule that all kids should be able to ride a bicycle at least one point of the childhood life. Image source: http://bicyclensw.org.au)

It was great to be back home – I missed my kids the most (the Big Boss had a tough time going to school knowing that I was coming back in the afternoon) and my car the next (haha, don’t worry, my wife understands me). And whilst I was away, my son have been busy – very busy indeed. I am not sure what prompted him but he has been checking out bicycles at the hypermarkets. He did that some months ago but he was not pressing for a purchase back then.

When he was small, we bought for him a 3-wheeler but he soon got bored with it. We decided to hold back from buying another bicycle until he has grown up to ride a proper bicycle and not another 3 wheeler (that is for babies, he once remarked). Lately he has been bringing up the subject on bicycles again – he got to know some of his classmates come to school on bicycle and that seemed to captivate him. He too has been toying on the idea of able to go to school on a bicycle – he said we can save on school bus fees but I think he knows that will not fly with us. There are too many junctions and heavy traffic between the house and the school for us to risk him with a bicycle (unless the school was next door to the house, of course). And we have seen him looking in envy at the kids with bicycle at the playground. The writing is on the wall for us to get him a bicycle – we just have been delaying this until we see him outperforming his “peers” in school (and from we saw and heard so far, he seems to be on the right track). My wife told me that he has even identified the exact bicycle that he wanted me to buy once I am back.

And speaking about bicycles, do you still remember your very first bicycle?

I don’t recall when I started to ride a bicycle on 2 wheels (instead of a 3 wheeler) – probably at my grandma’s house where there always a couple of old big bicycles laying around for us kids to practice (still remember those with steel brakes?) and where no one says “no” to any kids. But what I can recall was that I was able to ride on 2 wheels by Standard 4. We did not have bicycles at home so any chance of riding them was at my grandma’s house. There was also the place where I ride my first racing bicycle although I was too small to ride comfortably (I kept thinking I was going to fall over) – the change of speed gears was fascinating though.

Then one day when I was in Standard 5 (or so), my neighbour (lovely family from Sarawak) came over and asked if they can take me and my siblings for Christmas Open House at one of their relatives’ house. And there is where I saw it for the first time – a BMX bicycle. It was small, agile and it simply looked great. I saw some kids riding it and since we were kind of “out of place” in the crowd, I was only able to see it from far or so I thought. When one of the aunties, after seeing me sitting down bored at the living room, remarked to one of the kids that they should “invite” me to play along, I got closer to it and was happy when they handed me the bicycle to take it for a round. I was in heaven when I took hold of the bicycle and took it for a spin. We took turn riding it and I managed to put in another few rounds in it. Santa must have understood my wish back then.

When I got back, I mentioned that to my Dad but he only kept silent – a BMX bicycle was a luxury item back then. In a time when we had to rely on public bus, trains and my uncle’s car to move around, a bicycle was the last thing we need to strain our expenses. But not all was lost when we shifted house to another apartment block and we had one of the friendliest neighbour – a Chinese family and soon, 2 of the teenagers in the family (they were pretty much older than me) became more like big brothers to me. And one of them had a BMX bicycle. I did not dare to ask the brother for his bicycle – if anything happens to it, I don’t want to put any strain my Dad to pay for the damages. But the brother noticed this one day and asked if I wanted to take it for a ride. At first, I politely declined but he insisted (and soon his father who was inside the house asked me not to be shy and go ahead to take the bicycle for a ride). I took it for a ride and it was very smooth – I hardly hear any noise from the bicycle chain & sprockets.

The brother had greased the chains too well and it shows in the ride. I just took it for a ride around the neighbourhood and was worried if I had took it for too long – my parents would disapprove of this. When I returned, the brother was inside the house and when I called him, he looked surprised. He expected me to take another few rounds and returned it only when I had enough. He mentioned this to me and told me that I can take the bicycle for a ride at any time – he was getting too big for the bicycle and he hardly use it (his Dad got him a motorcycle for his commute to school). And if no one was using it, it will only collect dust. And soon I was using it when I had to go to the shops (which was about 1.5 km away) to buy things for my Mom and at the same time, taking the BMX for a longer ride. Riding fast on a BMX was definitely better than walking to the shops.

Although I was happy to be able to ride a BMX whenever I need, I was still apprehensive and shy of asking my neighbour to use the bicycle. At end of the day, it was not my bicycle. Further since my younger brother was also hooked to the BMX, we were worried that we may be using too much of a something that we did not owe. And my Dad knew about it but he kept his silent. But when I got top marks for my final year exams, something happened. Not known to me, my Dad has been making plans to buy a BMX bicycle for us (well, it is actually for me but my brother got his chance on it too – when I allowed him).

So on one fine weekend, my Dad came back home early and said that I need to follow him to buy something. Thinking that he is asking my help to carry some of the house sundry items (as how he often do when he gets his monthly salary), I was all up and ready to go after he had taken his shower. We walked but in the wrong direction of the sundry shop – clearly we were going to buy something different. I kept quiet as we walked – my Dad did not give any clue of what he was intending to buy and why I need to  follow him. Things got a lot clear when we reached the bicycle shop. We walked in and my Dad asked me to pick the colour (and the model) of the BMX bicycle and it will be all mine. It took me a moment to realise what was happening but then realised he was buying one for me (I later found out that my Dad had made arrangement with the bicycle shop owner to pay in instalments for the bicycle).

Finally I had my own BMX bicycle – it was maroon in colour and all shiny. And it remained in the “family” for the next few years until I started to lose interest on cycling and was more interested on motorcycling which was more high-powered and more expensive (where once again, I learned at my grandma’s house using my uncles’ bikes).

And now, it is my son’s turn to experience what I have gone through and I am very sure he is going to enjoy it.

No To Cheaper Cars?


(The latest Toyota Camry 2.5 is priced RM180,000 in Malaysia whilst the premium model only costs RM91,000 in US. So why is the huge difference in the car pricing in this country? Imagine source: TheCarGuys)

Folks, the general elections are coming soon and as I mentioned in my blog in the past, we must insist on voting for politicians who are able to see the bigger picture and be more intelligent enough in ensuring the issues that they raise in the public arena are of public interest and shapes the general policy and direction of this country.

One of the recent issues that were raised is the Pakatan Rakyat’s proposed plan to reduce price of cars in this country.

The proposal to reduce the prices of cars in this country by Pakatan Rakyat (an issue where a proper closure has been long overdue) if they are voted into power has sent a rather disturbing ripple among BN politicians. The reasons and the benefits to reduce car prices obviously works in good favour of the ordinary citizens and yet, we have not seen any BN politicians (except perhaps this guy) who had come out in the open with full support of this proposal.

Why? Is it because the proposal was initiated by the opposition and thus the support for the proposal is seen as a support for the opposition?

In argument against the said proposal, some argued that it will put the local automotive industry at a disadvantage once foreign cars were made cheaper. Valid argument no doubt but then again, how long more the local automotive industry needs to be able to compete on a global sense after almost 30 years in existence? Others try to stir racial issue by saying that the majority employed in the industry from a particular race and the impact of cheaper cars means a challenge to the race’s rights, which is rather nonsense as all races in this country are also involved in the industry one way or another.

Then we have this argument:-

Dalam keghairahan Pakatan Rakyat untuk menurunkan harga kereta, mereka terlupa untuk memberi maklumat kepada rakyat Malaysia apakah impak cadangan tersebut terhadap kualiti alam sekitar dan kenaikan sisa karbon serta kesesakan lalu lintas di jalanraya.

Ramai orang merasakan cadangan mengurangkan harga kereta ini bercanggah dengan tindakan kerajaan untuk menubuhkan Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (SPAD) yang dipertangggungjawabkan untuk mereformasikan sistem pengangkutan awam di negara kita.

Seperkara lagi, orang kampung di luar bandar tidak akan mampu untuk membeli kereta walaupun harga kereta diturunkan. Tetapi mereka akan merasa implikasi dari cadangan ini. Besar kemungkinan mereka terpaksa berkorban kerana sekolah dan klinik di kawasan pendalaman terpaksa di kurangkan akibat kekurangan peruntukan pembangunan disebabkan cukai kereta berbillion ringgit yang dipungut oleh kerajaan sudah berkurangan.

Ini belum lagi membicarakan tentang komitmen negara kita untuk mengurangkan intensiti karbon negara sebanyak 40% sepertimana yang diperakui oleh Malaysia dalam Protokol Kyoto.

(Source)

The MP for Kota Belud raises two key issues in response to Pakatan Rakyat’s call to reduce the price of vehicles in this country. One is the impact on the environment due to more vehicles purchased (since it is cheaper acquire them now) and two, the expected increase in traffic jam. He also said that the call for cheaper car is going against the on-going reformation of the public transport by the Government (although I don’t see the direct implication of cheap car on the reformation process as public transport still need to be reformed regardless whether cars are made cheaper or not) and the Government would lose a sizeable income and will cause the country unable to meet the carbon intensity by 40% as dictated by the Kyoto Protocol.

Before that, let’s ponder why Pakatan Rakyat is calling for reduction of car price in the country in the first place?

High taxation is the reason why cars are so expensive in Malaysia. Currently, according to Rafizi, Malaysians pay 70% in taxes when they buy locally-made cars of below 1,500cc.

“Buyers end up paying almost RM16,500 in excise duties and sales tax for a car worth RM40,000,” he said. “On top of that, car owners also pay about 4% in interest for the loan.” According to his estimation, a typical car owner in Malaysia pays nearly RM600 a month towards settling his car loan. Toll charges and the cost of petrol would take up another RM400 of his monthly income.

Rafizi said Pakatan would phase out excise duties on cars to reduce household debt and increase disposable income.

Citing the Statistics Department’s Household and Basic Amenities Survey Report 2009, he said 53% of Malaysian households earn less than RM3,000 a month. “The report also shows that 71.9% of Malaysians own a car,” he said. “High car installments have become one of the reasons Malaysians are burdened with huge debt.”

As of May 2012, car loans repayment ranked second highest in household debt, standing at a staggering RM134 billion, he added.

(Source)

It is not a big secret that Malaysians are paying ridiculous price for cars in this country compared to other countries. And a bulk of the price is attributed to excise duties and sales tax. And seriously I am in favour for cheaper cars – the benefits are just too obvious – more people will be able to drive in cars that are safer, more economical, environmental friendly and equipped with better technology. And with car price cheaper, the hire purchase amount would be lower and Malaysians would have more disposal income for their family, education and healthcare. If you think about it, a good portion of the hire purchase loan is now being used to pay off a bulk of the excise duties and sales tax which has incorporated into the overall car price. This means we are in high debt to pay taxes to the Government.

Let’s leave aside the issue of the impact on the local automotive industry (there will be some impact no doubt but what is more important is how the industry plans to address the current shortcomings and go head to head in the global market) and on how Pakatan intends to make up the loss of a sizable income for the Government due to reduced excise duties and sales tax.

Let’s focus on the Kota Belut MP’s 2 main argument’s against the lowering the cost of cars in this country.

Impact on the Environment

(The standard that we use for emission evaluation – the European Emission Standard which started back in 1992. Where is the Malaysian version of this? Image source: Wikipedia)

We must recognize that modern cars are far more efficient than the cars that we drove 10 – 20 years ago. With the influx of hybrid cars and cars that meet the European emission standards (with EURO 6 coming up soon in 2014), the impact on the environment is low and in general sense, is improving with a more stringent emission standards put in place.

If we still insist on meeting the reduction of the carbon intensity by 40% as dictated by the Kyoto Protocol, then we should not only address the emission from vehicles on the road but also holistically, greenhouse gas emission from other industries (such as the energy industry) as carbon dioxide is just one of the greenhouse gas identified in the Protocol. And if we are only looking at emission from vehicles, then shouldn’t we insist on a stringent emission standards for all vehicles in this country? We don’t have our own emission standards but often rely on European emission standards and how many vehicles in this country meet the latest European emission standards? Only the very latest Proton models (running on Campro CFE with CVT) seem to meet the latest EURO 5 emission standard but what about the rest?

Average Car Carbon Emission in European Union Countries = 160 g/km
Target for 2012 = 120 g/km
Target for 2020 = 80 g/km

Proton Gen-2 Carbon Emission = 157 g/km (ranges from 131 to 192 g/km for other models)
Proton Waja/Impian Carbon Emission = 167 g/km (manual transmission) 172 g/km (auto transmission)
Proton Satria Neo Carbon Emission = 177 g/km
Proton Savvy Carbon Emission = 134 g/km

Proton Waja and Proton Satria Neo beat the average car carbon emission in Europe. Seems like Proton Savvy is the greenest of all (not so green though) at 134 g/km considering that it is only a 1200 cc.

If you drive your car 10,000 miles per year and have an average polluting car (i.e 160g/km of carbon emissions) then every year your car will emit 2.6 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide. If you wish it offset this amount by planting trees you would need to plant at least 4 trees for every year you spend driving the car.

Proton’s cars are not so green. In fact, there are no information regarding carbon emission in Proton’s official website or Proton’s brochure. It is only mentioned “Low carbon emission” in the sales brochure. Well, not so low after all!

(Source)

We still have “tonnes” of older Proton models on the road, still emitting greenhouse gases year in, year out. Why not we enforce the emission control on them and other older models? By making the price of new cars cheaper, aren’t we accelerating the change of the older fuel guzzling, higher greenhouse gases emitting vehicles to newer fuel saving, lower greenhouse gases emitting vehicles?

Impact on the Traffic Jam

Even with the current high cost of car ownership, there is no positive improvement on the traffic jam especially in the Klang Valley and other major cities.Perhaps the situation is all rosy and well in Kota Belut but not so here – just try to drive during the peak hours and see how fast you can go.

This is because we have to come to a situation where having a car is no longer a luxury but rather a bare necessity. It is also safer and more convenient compared to one using the public transport (which is still in the process of revamping itself). Most household these days have at least 2 cars as it is also necessary for housewives to drive for daily shopping and to send & pick up their kids from school, etc. So before we can argue that cheaper cars means worsening traffic jams, we need to see the condition of traffic movement at the present and what is being done to elevate the situation.

Just look at Klang Valley with it’s all road infrastructure and public transportation integration at the very best, the traffic condition is still bad. Number of cars on the road is obviously a reason for the bad traffic jam but there are other factors as well. Queue jumping at key bottlenecks chokes the overall traffic system and gets cascaded all over. Another is the lack of feeder roads to the main roads especially from one residential area to another. The traffic jam is made worse due to high number of vehicles with low occupancy rate (just check and see how many people in most of the cars) and a lack of coordinated travel time similar to the one deployed during the festive season (or based on registration number which will force a greater use of public transport) for day to day travel to and fro workplace.

If cars are made cheaper, it will not necessarily means that the traffic jam will get worse (it already is) by a very drastic rate. There will be some increase (perhaps by those motorcyclists who now can afford to buy cars) but how much the increase will be is highly dependant on other factors as mentioned above. And there are others costs need to be considered as well – maintenance charges, parking, toll and fuel which will play crucial role on those who wants to drive around in a car on a daily basis.

Final Say

It is easy to say that all of Pakatan’s ideas are bad ideas and throw-in the usual arguments towards it but we need a solid solution for the existing problems as well. In the case of Pakatan’s call for cheaper cars in this country, one would strongly agree that there will be a major impact on the local automotive industry and the revenue for the Government (which Pakatan said is manageable if the general expenses are well managed) but then again, does that mean we should keep the car prices arbitrarily high and keep the people in high debts and away from better quality, safer & a more environment friendly cars?

If the Government is not agreeable in reducing the car price down, then what would be the alternative measures to increase the household disposable income of those who need to use a car for their daily routine and yet a bulk of their income is tied to high car price & loan? A more flexible hire purchase arrangement (like using monthly rest and not Rule 78 or multi tier hire purchase rate) or perhaps some kind of long term cash rebate or sales tax relief for those who drive a more eco-friendly (remember we need to address the targets under the Kyoto Protocol) cars? Or perhaps some staggered tax policy that based on the capacity of the vehicle and net income of the car owner?

Can we have this now? No, not the cheaper price for cars but rather, a better focus of the issues at hand.

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The Chinatown White Knights


(This is the place where I bought my first true SLR and this is also the place where we used to go for new clothes for Deepavali. Image source: http://www.backpackingmalaysia.com)

If you ask me, it is rather hilarious!…

From theSun’s headline that screamed “Chinatown Saved”:-

About 30 buildings in Chinatown need not make way for development of the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project. However, they will have to be vacated for about six months to facilitate underground work.

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek announced the news at a press conference today at the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) headquarters after a meeting with its chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, its CEO Mohd Nur Ismal Kamal, representatives from Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd and members of the Jalan Sultan building owners ad-hoc committee.

(Source)

This reminded me of this post by Patrick Teoh titled “Conspiracy Theory 101” where he said:-

But just the other evening a friend told me, “Hiyah! No need to shout so much la. It’s just a show only. It’s part of Umno/BN strategy to regain some Chinese votes ma.” Huh? How? Simple what. You just wait a few weeks and see. This is how it will happen.

The Chinese flers in Petaling Street will continue to get pissed about things. The PR flers will make more statements condemning the Umno/BN government for not being sensitive to this, that and the other. And then…………

Chua Soi Lek and the “knights” of the MCA will ride in and announce that they have petitioned the government, on behalf of the Chinese community, to re-think the MRT and Chinatown acquisition plans. Then, Najib or Nazri or one of those flers who happens to be not on holiday at the time, will say OK! Then CSL will tell the Petaling St. flers, “See? Only MCA can give Chinese flers good representation in Parliament ma. So vote for us lor. By the way, can give more discount on that gold Lolex ah?”

So, it does look like that prediction came true! And if one is looking for the real savior of Chinatown, it has to be this:-

The government had previously insisted on acquiring all the buildings as the Land Acquisition Act stipulates that property must be acquired before any construction work can begin, even for underground railway development as under the law, ownership of a building includes the land below.

However, Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun mooted the idea that the government acquire only the land beneath the buildings and provide the owners with stratum titles to allow the MRT to run below without acquiring the land above.

By the way, MP Fong Kui Lun is from Pakatan Rakyat. Wonder who will end up getting the credit of saving one of the key heritage areas in the city?

Safest Airplane Seat


This may interest the frequent fliers…

(Chances of survival in case of a crash. Pick your seats wisely – it may even keep you alive in the unlikely situation. Note the irony of things – you pay more for Business Class but your chances of survival is even slimmer. Image source: Popular Mechanics)

From Popular Mechanics:-

A look at real-world crash stats, however, suggests that the farther back you sit, the better your odds of survival. Passengers near the tail of a plane are about 40 percent more likely to survive a crash than those in the first few rows up front.

That’s the conclusion of an exclusive Popular Mechanics study that examined every commercial jet crash in the United States, since 1971, that had both fatalities and survivors.

The raw data from these 20 accidents has been languishing for decades in National Transportation Safety Board files, waiting to be analyzed by anyone curious enough to look and willing to do the statistical drudgework.

In the past, I did not really care much on where I am seating as long as I am in the right plane and heading to the right destination. Some of my friends like to seat in front for a couple of reasons – it is nearer to the lavatory (especially for those who have small storage “tank”), it is easier to disembark (since most of the time, you will disembark from the front) and there is a higher chance of getting the available meal (if they are serving fish and chicken – one of this would run out by the time the meal trolley reaches the back).

But over the years, I find that it is more comfortable seating at the back – there are more empty seats at the back. So, I can put my spare items on the empty seats. Further, with empty seats at the back, I don’t have to worry about reclining my seat and inconvenience the passenger at the back when they are having their meals (something that some passengers at the front don’t think when reclining their seats). Ya, by seating at the back, it takes a longer time for me to disembark but it does not make any big difference.

Disembarkation is pretty fast in modern planes – sometimes they even open the door at the back to ensure passengers get off even faster. The real delay is often encountered at the immigration counters and luggage retrieval areas.

(The meal during my Chennai – KL trip in Malaysian Airlines. It was not so bad once you get used to eating “not really fresh” airline meals)

And with most of the crying babies and “hard to handle” kids sitting at the front, it is somehow “quieter” at the back – an added advantage in a 7 – 8 hours flight.

And when it comes to getting your food of choice, it is not really a big problem. These days, I simply log in to the airline website, pick my seat of my choice and can decide to have something different for my airline meals (such as meals cooked for Hindus or vegetarians). This way, you are pretty sure that there is one meal reserved for you no matter where you are sitting. I had special meals for Hindus in my recent flight and I was surprised on how good the meal looked and tasted compared to the usual airline meal which is usually predictable and bland (so much so my neighboring passenger wanted the same meal as mine).

And now with the statistics backing me up, the back seats looks so tempting and safe…

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