Wednesday, 30 April 2008

When fun can turn into anxiety

I was in two minds about posting this story since it happened more than a month ago but what prompted me to proceed was seeing the post-event promo aired by Astro a few days ago.

On the 23rd of last month, my son Imran and his friend Yusof joined the Vitagen Run For Fun event organised by Astro Ceria. The run was held at Danga Bay in the early hours of the morning. In fact, we to had leave home before daybreak and was at the location before first light.

The turnout was surprisingly large, hence parking became a problem. It didn't help that the location was poorly lighted. Perhaps they had switched off the floodlights too soon. When we reached the assembly point, I became somewhat apprehensive because the layout of the facilities was a bit complicated. I thought that Astro has tons of experience in organising large crowd events and would have foreseen the problems.

Astro opened the participation into 2 categories : 7 to 12 years and 13 to 15 years. The registration, collection of bib and number was held the day before but sadly there were still parents who wanted to register their children that very morning. Since the registration was not a speedy process, there were many that could not collect their numbers in time. When the run started, first for the younger kids, there was a mild chaos as the registration staff simply had to hand out the bibs upon being pressured by parents who insisted on getting their kids to run.

Although the rules say kids have to be at least 7-years old, I saw many who are much younger. Unfortunately, some of these little ones fell down or were pushed. It was a good thing the RELA staff were quick to act.
After the first category of kids were flagged off, the teenagers of the second category had to be held back. It didn't help that the finishing point of running route doubled back to the start point. This meant that the organisers had to wait for the all the younger runners to finish, otherwise there would be a collision. And you cannot expect the 7-year olds to complete the course in the same time as the 12-year olds.
The older kids who were held back like crowded sheep in a pen, were restless and eager to start running. There was pushing and shoving.... and I was really worried some kids might be crushed. The emcees, Zainal Alam and Reza were having a tough time keeping things calm but I give them credit for thinking of various diversions (singing, joking etc.) to keep the teenagers occupied.

When the second group was finally set free, you could see the relief on the faces of the organisers.
Unfortunately, the anxiety did not end there. The runners who had finished running were directed to a compounding area, presumably to make it easy for parents to collect them. But the area soon filled up to the thousands and we had frantic parents searching for `lost' children. The organisers thought that putting the mobile contact numbers of the parent on the bib of the runner was a good idea. But in a sea of thousands, how do you tell a parent the exact position of his son or daughter?

My son manage to complete the run without any problems. I reckon he didn't do too badly, probably finishing in the top 20 of the second category. The runners were then supposed to report back to the registration counters to collect their certificate. This turned out to be another labourious process and my son agreed to give it a miss. To compensate for this, I took him and his friend to breakfast where they could order anything they wanted.
Hopefully Astro would learn from these shortcomings and improve themselves for the future events.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Day trip back to the kampung...

Earlier today I accompanied my parents back to our kampung in Pontian to visit relatives. The old house belonging to my late maternal grandfather is actually not quite in a kampung at all but by the main road just about a kilometre away from town.

Although I was born in this house, I grew up mostly in Singapore, so I cannot exactly call myself a Pontian lad. Nonetheless, I do have fond memories of this place. When grandfather was still alive, the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri would be spent at his house without fail. I can still remember the effort my father took in getting the whole family back to the kampung for Hari Raya. First was the hassle of clearing customs and immigration at the causeway. Then the rush and crush of taking the South Johore bus from the old Jalan Ah Fook bus station. The journey seemed to take ages and the old road was twisting and turning like a serpent's back.

My late grandfather's name was Hj. Mohd Rashid Bin Hj. Taib. According to my mom, he was also known as Hj. Rashid Banjar among the Pontian folks, a reference to his ethnic origin. He lived to a very old age, way past 100 years old I was told. But of course, there was no way we could verify his exact age at the time he passed away since birth records were non-existent back then.

According to an inscription on the front step, this old house was completed in July 1952. During the years, there has been the necessary repairs and paint jobs, but the original structure and style of the raised Malay kampung house remains intact. After the passing of my grandparents, the house has been occupied and maintained by my uncle.

While the senior folks were discussing family matters, I took the opportunity to take a leisurely drive around Pontian town.

Pontian is located on the west coast of Johor state about 60km from Johor Bahru. A murky river called Sungai Pontian Kecil cuts the town in half. The wooden houses on stilts by the river's edge are still there from as long as I can remember. Some things never change, I guess.
Pontian also used to be known as a `cowboy town', the term applied to small towns that grew along a single main street. In Pontian, this particular road is called Jalan Bakek. It starts at the junction of the main road to JB and ends at a crossroad at the edge of the town limit. This same road extends northwards to Batu Pahat district and is called Jalan Alsagoff, where my grandfather's house is.

The Alsagoff name is easily understood but the `Bakek' part takes a bit of explanation. What does it mean? A search at Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka's online dictionary yielded nothing. It seems that the word does not exist (or at least, not in the official Malay language). But I have heard the word spoken many times by my late grandmother and my mom when they conversed in the Banjar dialect, and it means `market'. And it makes sense, because the old Pontian wet market was indeed located on this main road. Anyway, that's my take on it, just a simple observation, no in-depth research. Any alternative explanation is most welcome.

While on this subject matter of road names, Pontian has a Jalan UMNO, a street name I have not come across at any other town in Johor, or for that matter in Malaysia. The name is due to the location of the dominant Malay ruling party district headquarters, an elegant old timber building built pre-independence. It has now been renovated in line with the times but, as with my grandfather's house, the original form was retained.

Pontian is of course, no longer a cowboy town. The town has expanded seawards with the reclamation of a new development area known as Pontian Commercial Centre. The old T-junction of the main road to JB is now a busy intersection, with the new arm leading into the commercial centre. The area is still in the process of development with new blocks of commercial space coming up every year.

While taking a walk along the reclaimed seafront, I spied a branch of Aliff Restaurant, the quintessential 24-hours mamak eating place. The main restaurant in JB is a favourite hangout of mine because of the clean premises, wide screen TV and free wi-fi access. I stopped by the place to have a drink and `mee hoon sup', a preferred dish when I'm feeling under the weather. I must say the noodle soup at their JB restaurant tastes better.
I recently read in an online forum that there is a good restaurant on the way to Kukup. Maybe I'll try to find it on my next trip back to the old kampung...

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Johor Open Sailing Competition

In addition to the secondary schools brass band competition as mentioned in the earlier post, PBT Pasir Gudang also organised the Johor Open Sailing Competition at Pantai Pasir Layar, Tanjung Langsat.

After watching the prize-giving and closing ceremony of the brass band competition, we walked over to the nearby beach but the sailing was already over for the day. I just managed to capture some photos of the children hauling their boats out of the water.

Johor Schools Brass Band Competition

Pasir Gudang Local Authority (PBTPG) and the Johor State Education Department yesterday organised the secondary schools brass band competition at Tanjung Langsat Port in Pasir Gudang. This is the second year that PBTPG hosted this competition and this time six schools took part.

The winning band would go on to represent Johor at the national level finals, expected to be hosted by Johor state sometime in June.

It was a tough fight between two traditional rivals in this field, Sekolah Tun Fatimah (STF) and Sekolah Perempuan Sultan Ibrahim (SIGS). The judges took an unexpectedly long time to decide on the winner.

Finally, SIGS was declared the winner... congratulations! Hope to see you girls do well at the national finals.

SIGS's Drum Majorette lost the Best Drum Major title to her STF counterpart.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

No time, no time... too much to do!

Another item from the forwarded email category, a beautiful poem on the excuse of being too busy. Again, I wish I could give the original author due credit. Not sure what the original title was, so I picked one that I thought is suitable...

Never found the time

I knelt to pray but not for long,
I had too much to do.
I had to hurry and get to work,
For bills would soon be due.

So I knelt and said a hurried prayer,
And jumped up off my knees.
My Muslim duty was now done,
My soul could rest at ease.

All day long I had no time
To spread a word of cheer.
No time to speak of Allah to friends,
They'd laugh at me I'd fear.

No time, no time, too much to do!
That was my constant cry.
No time to give to souls in need
But at last the time, the time to die.

I went before the Lord,
I came, I stood with downcast eyes.
For in his hands God held a book;
It was the book of life.

God looked into his book and said
“Your name I cannot find.

I once was going to write it down...
But never found the time."

Bidya Mosque, Fujairah, United Arab Emirates

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Petua bila tercekik tulang

This next post is in Bahasa Melayu. It is a piece I copied from a forum buddy who undoubtedly obtained it via a forwarded email. I wish I can give the original author due credit.

I thought I could translate it into English but the context is too unique in Malay culture. Sorry about that...

Petua bila tercekik tulang

Aku datang dari keluarga yg besar... 16 adik beradik, bila sesekali berkumpul, dah tentu mak aku akan buat majlis makan besar-besar dan best-best!!!

Dalam ramai2 adik beradik, bukan semua yg suka stail aku, apabila aku bawa gaya hidup "gaya pulang ke pangkal jalan"... maka adalah yg tak kena sana sini...

Masa makan, aku pun duduk lah cara Nabi... (rujuk ustaz) lalu ada yg sound : "apahal duduk macam nak berlari ajer..."

"tak baik lutut tinggi pada makanan..."

"ni duduk ke nak berak nie..?"

Oleh sebab aku lelaki beriman, maka aku buat muka seposen... aku pun basuh tangan.

Nota untuk mua'alaf: sebelum makan, sunnah Nabi adalah basuh kedua2 tangan dan berkumur, insyaAllah jika korang amal nie, sebelum korang mati Allah akan mempermudahkan segala urusan hutang piutang korang. Hutang kereta/rumah/ kahwin/study/ along bla bla bla!!!

Sambung balik, aku pun berpikir... ada baiknya juga Nabi tak makan pakai sudu atau garfu. Kalau Nabi makan pakai sudu, susah pulak org miskin macam aku nak ikut sunnah Nabi. Nak pakai sudu material apa? stainless steel ke inconnel 601? nak pakai colour camne? metalic ke copper? Kan susah tu!!!

Tu belum lagi jika Nabi makan pakai kerusi dan meja... bentuk bulat ke? bentuk heksagon? oktagon? nanagon? nak kena pergi kedai perabot buat ansuran mudah! jimat ! hanya RM1 dan tunggu 30 hari, kunjungilah kedai perabot terbesar di Malaysia, bla bla bla!!!

Biasa korang belajar doa makan macam nie: "Allahummabariklana (hingga akhir)" tapi tu sebenarnya doa tengok makanan, doa makan mudah sajer: "Bismillah, barkatillah"

Lepas tu makan lah, dengan tiga jari (sunnah Nabi) kemudian, ada pulak suara-suara yg sound : "Eh, kenyang ke makan dengan tiga jari?"

Aku kata: "Huh, anak cina makan dengan dua kayu elok2 habis nasi satu pinggan!!!"

Tapi oleh kerana aku sorang jer yg makan dengan tiga jari, org lain makan dengan lima jari, maka aku lihat kadar flow of suapan dan kadar quantity of lauk-pauk diorang lebih laju dan maju, maka aku menukar jariku dari 3 kepada 5... oh... tepuk dada tanya iman...

Kemudian aku minum dari tangan kanan yg tidak berbasuh... Diorang tegur: "issh... pengotor betullah"

Aku kata: "Apa pulak kotor, aku makan nasi, bukan tahik!!!" (tapi aku kata dalam hati sebab aku lelaki beriman)

"Nie, apahal jilat2 jari nie? lucah betul!!" tanya diorang pada aku...

"Makan ayam sedap sampai ke kaki... makan sate sedap sampai ke lidi he he he" kataku...Banyak pulak diorang komplen cara aku makan... err maksud aku cara Nabi makan...

Aku tahu tak berguna berdebat ngan mereka lalu aku ubah topik dengan bertanya: "Tahukah korang kenapa lembu makan rumput dan kambing makan daun?"

Abang aku kata: "Sebab tengkuk lembu berat... bla bla bla..."

Aku kata: "Salah!!! Lembu makan rumput dan kambing makan daun sebab mereka lapar!!! (tak lawak) ha ha ha!!!" Aku menyambung: "Penting makan cara Nabi sebab kita hari2 makan, tapi bila tak ikut sunnah, maka jadi macam lembu dan kambing makan sajer, namun bila korang makan macam Nabi saw makan, maka di kira ibadat. Masa nak makan, niatlah makan kerana perintah Allah, namun kena nafikan makanan yg bagi kenyang. Hakikatnya kenyang datang dari kudrat Allah"

Tiba2 mak aku tercekik tulang ikan... (bayangkan seorang mak cik sedang tercekik tulang).

Kemudian, mak aku mendapat nasihat secara berperingkat, ada yg sarankan agar makan pisang, minum air dengan cepat, makan nasi kepal dan lain-lain, tapi masih tak berjaya... kesian mak aku...

"Huh! Hamka, takkan kau tak tahu cara sunnah Nabi nak buang tulang tercekik camne? Cakap terer..." kata abang aku.

Aku kata: "Senang sajer... Mak angkat kedua-dua tangan ke atas..."

Mak aku pun buat... tapi masih tak jadi...

Aku kata: "Lurus Mak, tangan mak dua-dua kena lurus... !!!" (bayangkan seorang makcik yg sedang duduk bersila sambil kedua-dua tangan diluruskan ke atas, tangan kanan masih terdapat sisa2 nasi, manakala di lengan dan tengkuk di penuhi dengan rantai emas...)

Aku kata: "Sekarang sebut: SUPERMAN RETURN!!!!!!" HA HA HA... (semua org ketawa) - nasi berhembur-hembur di sana sini. Mak aku juga ketawa... sehingga tulang yg tercekik itu terkeluar... semuanya dari Allah!!!

He he he... selamat mencuba, ni bukan hadith, just pengalaman.

Carilah sebutir permata dalam timbunan kaca walau jarimu terluka…

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Lembah Bernam

At the end of last year, we took a short break to Kuala Lumpur and Tanjung Malim. We spent a day at Lembah Bernam, near Tg. Malim. There are a number of chalet operators there who offer reasonably priced accomodation and board. Amenities are pretty basic but if you like the jungle atmosphere and a dip in the cool Bernam River, then check this place out.

Sungai Bernam is actually the physical border between the states of Selangor and Perak.

The place is especially suitable for family gatherings. The access road was recently tarred so even a small Kancil car can drive up to the site.

After an afternoon dipping in the river, we later stopped by Tanjung Malim town to have dinner before heading back to Kuala Lumpur. I simply have to recommend this Chinese Seafood restaurant called The Gardens. It is certified `Halal' and all the dishes are delicious, not to mention prices way below KL standard.

Don't forget to try out their Sweet & Sour Prawns with bread dip. Marvellous...

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Forwarded and forwarded emails...

My first post to kick-off this blog used an item that was received from a friend via email. Naturally it was forwarded from his friend who got it from god knows where. Such multiple forwarded emails can sometimes be a bane and clutter up your inbox. These types of email are not actually spam... they come from your friends who think that what they have received may also interest you. So this well-intended chap would simply click the `forward' button and send to all in his address book.

One of the worst kind of forwarded emails are those that goad you into forwarding it further, either in the guise of encouragement (forward this email to 7 friends and light up their day!) or the veiled threat of misfortune (if you do not forward this email to at least 15 people, something bad will happen within a week!). In the pre-Internet era, I've received my fair share of similar type of chain letters. What the originator of such chain mails hope to achieve, I really can't understand, short of creating more business for the post office.

The mobile phone SMS has also been used for the same purpose. I have a sneaky feeling that chain SMSes are just the telco's trick to increase their revenue!

One of the most incredulous forwarded email that I received recently is the one purporting that Bill Gates is sharing his wealth, and that the receipient of the mail would get money if he does this or that or whatever. And some receipients along the way have the gall to add comments such as, `No harm trying.' Sheesh! Some people really are just born yesterday...

Equally annoying are the forwarded emails that advocate us to do this or that, under the name of religion but quoting dubious sources.

I don't mind receiving forwarded emails.... I myself forward some too... but what disappoints me is that some of my friends do not take enough care in reading what they receive and decide whether it is actually worth forwarding. If you forward to me an email of some fabulous get-rich-quick scheme, it immediately gives me an idea of what sort of person you are. And if I shoot back a reply that you not waste your time on such schemes, you would then know what sort of person I am.

Of course, there are useful items that drop in our inbox as well. Forwarded emails containing inspiration and humour are gratefully accepted. Like the one I received from a friend in Singapore titled `Lights Around The World', containing beautiful pictures of cities around the world, taken at night. Some are shown below :






The original email has 19 photos. The last photo was just a black rectangle, supposedly Kuala Lumpur, but not visible due to a TNB blackout... hahaha...

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Liverpool through to semi-final of Champions League

Yes, I am an Anfield kaki... The Reds beat the Gunners 4 - 2 earlier today (aggregate 5 - 3), to progress to the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League. They'll meet Chelsea next.

Pic from Anfield Online

Their good run in Europe does not carry over to the EPL. But I'm not too worried. Come next season, Torres and Babel would grow in maturity, then we'll make a real go at the League championship.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

A good makan spot in JB

One of my favourite local websites is the search engine portal called It has a lively Forum Section that covers a myriad of categories from Current Issues, Local Events, Hobbies to Entertainment and even Gossips.

It is from this site that I got to know of good eating places. Last Saturday night, we went to Damai Seafood Restaurant, located on the outskirts of Johor Bahru town, at Kg. Sg. Danga (beyond Taman Perling). It is a Malay restaurant with interesting decor and reasonably priced food.

I had known about this place earlier in the year but only went recently because I waited for the Perling Interchange construction works to be completed.

Location can be obtained from wikimapia, here.

First Post

Finally got myself to set up this blog...

As a first post, let me quote an enlightening piece I received via email, relating to the paradox of our time. According to the email, the item is from American stand-up comedian George Carlin but the official Carlin website says that the work is not from him.

Although Carlin says it's a `sappy load of sh*t', I like it anyway. So here it is :

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways , but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Perhaps what made me select this piece was the part about taking time to share the precious thoughts. That, to me, is a good reason as any to keep a blog...

Oh, by the way... the above essay (or at least in most parts) was written by Dr. Bob Moorehead. There is an interesting background to it that you can read here.