Saturday, 31 May 2008

Training for a sea of opportunities

Earlier this week, I got the chance to visit the Malaysian Maritime Academy or better known by its acronym ALAM (Akedemi Laut Malaysia), located at Kuala Sg. Baru in Melaka. ALAM is the only establishment in Malaysia that conducts world-recognised training and courses for the maritime industry.

My trip to ALAM was actually to witness a ship simulation exercise for a port constructed in Johor. The ship simulation centre was constructed in 2005 and offers cadets, pilots and other mariners training in full-mission ship handling tasks. Apart from training, the simulation centre allows third-party clients such as port owners to evaluate the safety of ship maneuvers in and out of their ports.

The centre has a bridge mock-up with a near 360-degree view complete with the full range of navigation equipment such as radar, electronic charts, sensors and helm (or the steering wheel to us laymen). The full range of environmental conditions can be simulated such as tide, waves, current, wind and other marine traffic. One of our exercise runs involved the maneuvering of a large oil tanker outbound to sea, at night, in a thunderstorm, through a narrow channel and against current. If that was not enough, there were also incoming ships to deal with. The pilot safely guided the ship out of port and the run was marked as a `pass'. Cool...

Each run can take from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the type of ship being handled and the conditions simulated. Prior to ALAM's setting up of the centre, ship simulation studies had to be done overseas.

Friday, 30 May 2008

NST online article on Mersing

I had written about my wife's hometown of Mersing yesterday. By coincidence, NST online is also carrying an article on Mersing in its Johor Buzz section.

The article is titled `Mersing fast losing its charm' and tells the story of a small town that is only being used as a transit point by tourists wanting to spend time on the outlying islands. There is also a mention of the old Government Rest House, abandoned since the 1980s, and now a potential place for `Seekers'. The article did not include a picture of the Rest House but I have one in my collection, shown below.

Click on this link for the full story.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Walk for Media Freedom

BENAR, the civil society group pushing for a free and fair media in Malaysia is organising a Walk for Media Freedom on Sunday 1 June 2008. Walk starts at Dataran Merdeka around 9am and ends at the National Press Club.
Details can be obtained here.

My other kampung, Mersing

Morning ferry leaving the Sg. Mersing river mouth
Just got back from outstation duty at Melaka. Not able to get online at all during the past three days. I'll post about Melaka (and Port Dickson, where we stayed) a little later, but for today, just a short post about my other kampung, Mersing, on the east coast of Johor.
Well actually, it's kampung of the other half. We went back on Saturday 24 May 2008 to drop by an empty house.... nobody lives there anymore, sigh. My in-laws stay all over. The house is only used as a common gathering place during Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Not too sure how much longer it's going to be so.

Anyway, just a few things to mention about Mersing. If you like nasi dagang (rice with a thick chunk of tuna bathed in savoury gravy), go to a stall at the new wet market/bus terminal early morning. The nasi dagang here is still RM1.00 a packet, and I usually eat two. During school holiday periods and festive seasons (when city folks balik kampung), the waiting crowd is so large that the stall-owner has to implement a queue-numbering system. I dare say, the taste of the Mersing nasi dagang is as good, if not better than the famous one at Chendering, Trengganu.

Mersing also has some good keropok lekor but not as good as the ones from Kemaman. But there is this one place that makes and sells keropok that I would say, is not too bad. It is located out of Mersing town, at an area called Tenglu. If you are on your way north to Pahang on Federal Route 3, the shop is located on the right-hand side, before the junction to Air Papan beach. Mersing is the only place in Johor that produces keropok lekor because the keropok makers in Mersing are actually descendants of Trengganu folks.

At our last visit in February, the gold rush fever was at its peak (see the picture header of this blog). It has now died down and the price of woks and frying pans in Mersing have returned to normal.

Sunrise over bridge crossing Sungai Mersing

Fishing boat on its way to the outlying islands

Early morning beach at low tide

Friday, 23 May 2008

Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore

The ICJ has just now ruled that Pedra Branca / Pulau Batu Puteh belongs to Singapore. However, the maritime feature called Middle Rocks has been ruled in favour of Malaysia. The status of the third feature, a tidal elevation called South Ledge (visible only at low tide) is still open-ended.

In the almost two-hour reading of the judgement, the President of the Court Judge Al-Khasawneh, elaborated on various observations and considerations of both parties arguements.

If I was to put it simply on why we lost, it was because Malaysia did not show any objections or disputed Singapore's actions on the island or show any interest in claiming the island throughout the period from when the Horsburgh lighthouse was built in 1851 to until 1979.

Just goes to show that silence is not always golden...

Anyway, I wish to thank the Malaysian team, headed by Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Mohamad for putting in a brilliant effort in presenting Malaysia's case.

Hope we learn something from this.

Update 25 May 2008 : My related comment on Rocky's Bru, here.

Update 31 May 2008 : Opinion of a former Ambassador, here.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Judgement on the Pulau Batu Puteh dispute tomorrow

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) would deliver its judgement on the Pulau Batu Puteh dispute between Malaysia and Singapore, tomorrow Friday 23 May 2008.

The oral pleadings took place at ICJ's Peace Palace at The Hague in the Netherlands over a period of three weeks from 6 November 2007 to 23 November 2007. I had followed the case by the reading the news reports but nothing beats reading the transcripts of the proceedings that ICJ has made available to the public via its website, here.

Sure, it's heavy reading... but to see how the learned counsel from either side present and rebut each other arguements... wow, awesome. Definitely good reading for law students and even those who aspire to work in diplomatic circles.

The court gave Singapore the chance to present her case first, but this, the Court says, does not imply that one party is seen as applicant while the other as respondent.

When I first started reading the Singapore arguments, my initial thoughts were... whoa, how are we going to counter this. It took another hour before I reached Malaysia's opening arguments. And as I read through, I note that our team had presented good arguements as well.

For those of you lazy fellas who can't be bothered to read the whole thing, let me try to summarise the contentions of both sides in just one line (like it's that simple, duh!). Singapore says she has sovereignity over Pedra Branca because the island is considered terra nullius (roughly meaning nobody's land) when the British first landed on it in 1847 and then built a lighthouse in 1851. Since then, the Brits and later Singapore had continued to operate the lighthouse without any recognition of claim by Malaysia.

Malaysia, on the other hand, says that when the Brits wanted to built the lighthouse back then, permission was sought from the Johor Sultanate and of course the permission was given. But this permission did not extend to giving away the island, just to build and operate the lighthouse only.

Of course, there are more arguements than what I've written here. Check it out for yourself if you're interested. The point to note here is what would happen next if either Malaysia or Singapore wins. For this, you can just try to read the closing speech by Malaysia's agent, Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Mohamad.

Or you can just wait for the verdict to be announced tomorrow.

So how do I think it will go? The Singaporeans have been saying that they are quitely confident of winning. So, not to be less kiasu... I'll say the same thing lah!
Graphic map from Singapore's Memorial

Monday, 19 May 2008

Happy Wesak Day

To all my Buddhists friends, I wish a Happy Wesak Day. May we continue to live in a country that tolerate religious and racial differences.

Fellow blogger, Fie The Elf (see link on the right), posted her thoughts about our Bangsa Malaysia. It is a good read. She wrote about growing up in Sabah where having friends of a different race/religion was never an issue. But the race/religion thing is treated differently here in Peninsula Malaysia.

I couldn't agree with her more. I grew up in Singapore where I had Malay, Chinese, Indian and Eurasian friends. When I transferred to boarding school in Malaysia, my circle of non-Malay friends dropped to almost nil.

My mother, who grew up in Pontian town, can speak the Hokkien and Teochew dialects fluently. This is because she had Chinese neighbours and friends.

The point that I want to make here is that, to understand about racial and religious tolerance, we have to start out young. That's why I encourage my sons to have more non-Malay friends at school.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

BMW Shorties 2008

I arrrived at the BMW Shorties website through blog-hopping. Nope, nothing to do with short guys driving beemers. This is the second year BMW is sponsoring a short films competition for talented Malaysian moviemakers.

There is opportunity for the public to cast their vote for their favourite short movie from the 10 finalists, but unfortunately it closes today 15 May 2008. No matter, let's just watch them shall we? Just click on the link below and then click the VIEW FINALISTS button.

Update 16 May 2008 : For the Love of Drowning by Nazim Mohammed Esa won this year's award. Moe Izwan Kamal’s Goat won the People's Choice award. Full story from the Star Online, here.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Hot, hot El Nino!

Fernando José Torres Sanz a.k.a. El Nino (The Kid) scored 24 goals in his English Premier League debut season for Liverpool. He beat the earlier record of the most goals scored by a foreign player in his first season in England. That record was held by the equally excellent player, Ruud Van Nilsterooy of Manchester United.

Here's a video compilation of his goals for Liverpool.

More videos can be seen at the ultimate Fernando Torres fan site.

My pick for the best goal would probably be the second goal in the home match against Newcastle. A quick counter-attack strike that involved only Reina, Gerrard and Torres. Just five touches of the ball, a quick feint in front of the charging Newcastle keeper and a cool finish. Click this link for the video and watch the 8' 24" mark for this superb accomplishment.

Update 22.05.08 : The earlier video is no longer available. I've inserted a new one from zarserius.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

When there is nothing else to do but pray...

In my earlier post of 27 April 2008, I wrote about my day trip back to our hometown in Pontian. Part of the reason for that trip was to visit my aunt who has been warded in the district hospital for a few weeks.

She was transferred to the main general hospital in Johor Bahru (Hospital Sultanah Aminah) three days ago. I visited her yesterday and the doctors couldn't yet identify what the sickness was.

Early this morning, my cousin called to inform that doctors have diagnosed that my aunt is suffering from pancreatic cancer. The cancer is in the advanced stage and basically there is nothing much the doctors could do. It is really depressing to hear such a phrase... dah tak boleh buat apa-apa lagi.

I visited my aunt again this afternoon. The family is discussing on what we can do next. In the mean time, I pray to God Almighty to help relieve Mak Jah's pain and suffering.

Graphic borrowed from
I took the chance to read up on the disease from Mayo Clinic's website. The pancreas is the organ that lies just below the stomach and is part of the human digestive system. It secretes enzymes that aid disgestion and hormones including insulin, that help regulate the metabolism of sugars.
As to why my aunt's ailment was only detected at a late stage, Mayo Clinic's article has this to say : `Pancreatic cancer often has a poor prognosis, even when diagnosed early. Pancreatic cancer typically spreads rapidly and is seldom detected in its early stages, which is a major reason why it's a leading cause of cancer death. Signs and symptoms may not appear until pancreatic cancer is quite advanced and surgical removal isn't possible.'
Further information can be obtained from this link.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

What do women really want?

This question continues to boggle the minds of some men.

The following amusing story may answer the question above. I first read it in my favourite online forum website about 3 years ago.

Young King Arthur was ambushed and imprisoned by the monarch of a neighboring kingdom. The monarch could have killed him but was moved by Arthur's youth and ideals. So, the monarch offered him his freedom, as long as he could answer a very difficult question. Arthur would have a year to figure out the answer and, if after a year, he still had no answer, he would be put to death.

The question?....What do women really want? Such a question would perplex even the most knowledgeable man, and to young Arthur, it seemed an impossible query. But, since it was better than death, he accepted the monarch's proposition to have an answer by year's end.

He returned to his kingdom and began to poll everyone: the princess, the priests, the wise men and even the court jester. He spoke with everyone, but no one could give him a satisfactory answer.

Many people advised him to consult the old witch, for only she would have the answer. But the price would be high; as the witch was famous throughout the kingdom for the exorbitant prices she charged.

The last day of the year arrived and Arthur had no choice but to talk to the witch. She agreed to answer the question, but he would have to agree to her price first.

The old witch wanted to marry Sir Lancelot, the most noble of the Knights of the Round Table and Arthur's closest friend!

Young Arthur was horrified. She was hunchbacked and hideous, had only one tooth, smelled like sewerage, made obscene noises, etc. He had never encountered such a repugnant creature in all his life.

He refused to force his friend to marry her and endure such a terrible burden, but Lancelot, learning of the proposal, spoke with Arthur. He said nothing was too big of a sacrifice compared to Arthur's life and the preservation of the Round Table.

Hence, a wedding was proclaimed and the witch answered Arthur's question thus:

What a woman really wants, she to be in charge of her own life.

Everyone in the kingdom instantly knew that the witch had uttered a great truth and that Arthur's life would be spared.

And so it was, the neighboring monarch granted Arthur his freedom and Lancelot and the witch had a wonderful wedding.

The honeymoon hour approached and Lancelot, steeling himself for a horrific experience, entered the bedroom. But, what a sight awaited him. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen, lay before him on the bed. The astounded Lancelot asked what had happened.

The beauty replied that since he had been so kind to her when she appeared as a witch, she would henceforth, be her horrible deformed self only half the time and the beautiful maiden the other half.

Which would he prefer? Beautiful during the day....or night?

Lancelot pondered the predicament. During the day, a beautiful woman to show off to his friends, but at night, in the privacy of his castle, an old witch? Or, would he prefer having a hideous witch during the day, but by night, a beautiful woman for him to enjoy wondrous, intimate moments?

What would you do?

Noble Lancelot, knowing the answer the witch gave Arthur to his question, said that he would allow HER to make the choice herself.

Upon hearing this, she announced that she would be beautiful all the time because he had respected her enough to let her be in charge of her own life.

Now....what is the moral to this story?

The moral is..... If you don't let a woman have her own way.... things are going to get ugly!

When I googled this question in a bid to find the source of the story, I found that there is another version that is almost the same except for the Lancelot character and the moral of the story.

Click this link at the site to read and compare.

Nicole Kidman in the 2005 movie Bewitched. A most beautiful witch, if there ever was one. (Pic borrowed from a movie website)

Dare to be free!

A civil society initiative to campaign for a free and fair media was launched on 3rd May 2008. The initiative has been named `BENAR' (truth) and it's main thrust is to challenge journalists in the mainstream media to be daring enough to report events in an unbiased manner in spite of editorial demands.

As a first step, the BENAR group is promoting an online petition for the Malaysia Freedom of Information Act.

More details on the initiative can be found at this link.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

... you catch my drift?

The sound of screeching tyres and the smell of burnt rubber on a hot Sunday afternoon.

Yes, we spent some time at Bandar Baru Uda today to catch some cool drift action. My regular tyre shop owner, Othman Basiron of Utama Tyres organised a Drift Day exhibition with the support of Bridgestone Japan. The event was held in front of the premises of his tyre shop at Jalan Padi Ria 13. The two top drift drivers in Malaysia, Tengku Djan Ley and Ivan Lau were on hand to thrill the crowds. Lucky enthusiasts were able to take a `taxi ride' with the drivers for a 20-second thrill of their life. Tengku Djan Lay drove the red Proton Waja. I had a close look at Ivan Lau's white car but couldn't make out what brand it is.

Apart from the drift action, the day's event included a parade of Proton Perdana cars by the Johor Properd Club.
You wouldn't believe the amount some of the owners spent in pimping up their Perdana. They could've bought a Merc or Beemer for the price. But when you're a fan... nothing else matters, right? What is it with men and their cars?

All in all, it was a very interesting day indeed. Now let's see if I can side-park my Proton Wira using the drift method...

A chance to revive family ties

Without doubt, the two occasions where we get the opportunity to gather and meet relatives are at weddings and funerals. Weddings are of course, happy events and normally planned long in advance while funerals are the exact opposite.

This post is more to celebrate the happy occasion but strangely enough, there is a link to the sad event too.

Yesterday 3rd March 2008, we went to the wedding of a relative we have not met for a long time. The groom is the first son of my wife's late cousin. The cousin's father and my wife's mother were siblings, hence the relationship cannot be termed distant. Despite living in the same city of Johor Bahru, the cousins were never close. In fact, the last time I went to this cousin's house was at his funeral in 1995. The groom must have been a young boy just into secondary school then.

Since the groom's family had taken the effort to send us an invitation, I made sure that we tried our best to attend.

And so, after a lapse of 13 years, we made our way to a wedding reception at Taman Kemas in Tampoi. My wife at first could not recall how the widow of her late cousin looks like, but at times like these, it was not difficult to locate the `emak pengantin' or Mother of the Groom. After the initial `re-introduction', the memories and recognition came flooding back.

To the groom Mohd Haniff Bin Rapiyee and his bride Norehan Bte Mohamad, we wish `Selamat Pengantin Baru'. Our best wishes for a good life ahead. Hopefully, our next occasion to meet up again won't take that long.
A photo of the wife with the groom and bride

Meeting Kak Yah, the groom's mother

Thursday, 1 May 2008

It's a Chelsea v Man Utd final

Chelsea beat Liverpool last night 3 - 2 after extra time (4 - 3 on aggregate) in the semi-final of the Euro Champions League. They go on to meet Manchester United in the final on 21 May 2008 in Moscow.

The two teams are now gunning for the double of Premier League and Champions League titles. For the neutral supporter in me, I wish the honours to be divided. That certainly would be fair, wouldn't it?

On the balance of last night's play, I think Chelsea deserved to win. Liverpool defended poorly. That's it for Liverpool this season.

Bummer.... what a way to start the first day of May...