Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Look before you leap

Today is a special day. It is the first time I am able to put up a post in this blog on a day that comes once in every four years. February 29, 2012.

We all know what a leap year is... but why does it have 366 days instead of the 365 that we get from a normal year? Nowadays, it is very easy to get an answer to this question... just google. But back when I was in primary school, I remember looking for the answer in a thick book in the school library.

It was 1972 and I was in Standard 4. My teacher told me that the month of February in that year has 29 days. When I asked why, she told me to look for the answer in a book that explains about our solar system. I remember looking at an illustration in the book showing the Earth with an imaginary line circling the Sun. The caption below the picture says that the time it takes for Earth to do one complete revolution around the Sun is 365 and 1/4 days. This then equals one year. But then, it would be impractical to have a quarter day at the end of each year... just imagine that there would be a December 32nd that lasts for only 6 hours, from midnight to 6am, and that New Year's Day (1st January) would then start at 6am. Everything would be out of sync.

It was Julius Ceasar who first introduced the concept of leap days when he invented his Julian calendar at around 45 BCE. It was not terribly accurate and was later improved by a new calendar created by Pope Gregory XIII around 1,500 years later. The Gregorian calendar now forms the basis of time tracking and measurement for most of the modern world today. But why do we need to add that extra day every four years? It is because of the seasons. If we don't add the extra day, we lose about 6 hours every year and winter in the northern hemisphere would start to move forward. The recoupment of that 6 hours each year for 4 years ensures that the seasons happen at roughly the same time every year.

While refreshing my knowledge on this subject earlier today, I found out that the Earth's orbit is not exactly 365 and a quarter days. It is approximately 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds... and I say approximately because this duration can vary slightly depending on the relative position and influence of other planets. This means that even adding a day after every four years is not really that perfect if we look at the big picture. But the effect may only be significant in 8,000 years time. That's way ahead in the future for us to worry about... let the people living at that time solve it themselves.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Two weddings and a sunset

It was a packed day today. The first wedding was at Rengit in Batu Pahat while the second one was at Muar. After the second wedding, I headed out to Masjid Sultan Ibrahim by the south bank of Sungai Muar. I had hoped to catch some good sunset pics at Tanjung Emas near the river mouth but unfortunately the clouds were dark and overcast.

1st wedding : Bride is my colleague named Zurainah

Proof of attendance at 2nd wedding : gift boxes and a telur pindang

Masjid Sultan Ibrahim, Muar

Muar's second mosque, across the river

Dark clouds indicating heavy rains on the way

Friday, 24 February 2012

You never knew it had a name

"Sometimes it is," she said.
I nodded. Watched the rapid blinking of her eyes, shiny with unspilled tears. Watched the moisture that had pooled in the little valley above her top lip. What was that indentation called? I always forgot. But God, didn't it feel nice the way her fingertips were grazing the veins on the back of my hand?

The above passage comes from a novel that I just finished reading last night. It is the latest book written by Wally Lamb and is titled `The Hour I First Believed'. I bought the book at Popular Book Store's fair a few months back and it has taken me this long to finish reading it. At two and a half inches thick, it is one of the thickest novels I have held in my hands. And it has a great story. Pure human drama that spans a few generations from the 1800's to the modern day. But this post is not a book review... I may do that a bit later, if I do manage to digest and summarize the multiple-layered stories into a few lines.

A very good read but only for those with patience
Let's go back to the passage above, specifically to the part about the groove in the middle of our upper lip right below the nose. I am sure the author knows what it is called but he wrote it as a question, perhaps to prod his readers to actually find out for themselves.

The moment I read the sentence, I became agitated with myself... because just a few weeks before, I had read an amusing website link shared by a friend that shows a list of `25 everyday things you never knew had names', and that groove on the upper lip was one of the 25... but I could not remember. Feeling a bit peeved at my poor memory, I put down the book, fired up my laptop and went online to search for the link.

Philtrum... that's what it is called. So now you know...

Monday, 20 February 2012

Don't book a judge by his cover

Firstly... make sure you have read the title right. No, I did not type it wrongly.

I came across a comic strip in The Sunday Times of Singapore yesterday which gave me a chuckle. The strip is called Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley, and it was about a certain fable that makes a twist of a well-known English proverb. I did a search and found that the strip is also available online. Click on the image below for a larger view :

Source from ->
While googling for the comic strip, I came across a limerick which touches on the same subject but at a different angle :

An old British justice named Glover
Once murdered his wife and her lover.
A clue was then found:
His wig on the ground!
But you can't book a judge by his cover.

Heheheh... This lovely pun came from Mr Graham Lester, whose website has other funny poems.

If you find the above two pieces amusing, then you might be interested to know that there is another cheeky version that deals with `don't cover a judge by his book'. But we'll leave that story for another day...

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Filthy rich

The well-known phrase `filthy rich' must have been originally used by the not-so-rich people to describe the overwhelmingly rich ones who gained their wealth by unfair or improper means. Nowadays, the negative connotation of the phrase is somewhat muted and labelling some people as filthy rich simply means that they are exceedingly wealthy, no insult intended. I wouldn't mind if someone calls me as such... except that I do not qualify.

A few days ago, the Malaysian Business magazine reported that Robert Kuok is still the country's richest man. The staff of that magazine have been doing complex calculations over a number of years and comes out with an annual list of Malaysia billionaires, based on their reported holdings in listed companies. Kuok is said to be worth RM45.7 billion. The richest bumiputera is Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, who comes in at no. 5 with RM9.53 billion.

Wow.... billions, huh? Let's just try put that into perspective, shall we?

Let us just look at RM1 billion... that's a One with nine Zeros behind it. Assume for simplicity's sake, that I have worked 50 years of my life to get that RM1B. On average that works out to RM20 million a year or RM1.67 million a month... and we are not talking about gross salary here. At present, I'm taking home less than 0.5% of that monthly figure. In other words, those billionaires are waaaaaay out of my league! Can dream only meh....

But if we don't dream, we'd never achieve reality, right? Yeah, that's what I thought. There was this one time I was listening to this particular guy talking about how to become rich. He was asking his audience if we knew anyone in particular who wakes up every morning and have thousands of ringgit coming his way without doing anything? Of course we didn't. It's Robert Kuok, he said. And do we want to be rich like him? Of course we do. So let's join this new amazing business programme that would help us realize our dreams, he pitched. Many others have participated and made it big, so what are we waiting for?

It was a multi-level marketing recruitment seminar and I was duped. Yeah... don't be surprised, I did try MLM once. I guess the dream of hitting my quick million had dulled my senses. I quickly learned that sales is not my skill at all. I doubt any of those guys in the annual billionaire list got rich from being involved in direct-selling. *Sigh* Enough of the dreaming... and back to the grind.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Halal Steamboat BBQ in JB

There are quite a number of Steamboat BBQ restaurants in Johor Bahru today that are operated by Muslims. You know... the type where you pay a single-cost per person all you can eat until your tummy is totally full and you don't waste food by taking too much on your plate because you think you can eat everything and end up not cooking the extra stuff that you took and run the risk of being charged for the excess at RM5 per 100g. So don't be greedy...

I have been to a number of these places, some of which I discovered from food blogs while some were simply spotted while driving past a particular place. These restaurants are typically located in shophouses in the many new housing areas that have sprouted all over JB city. They are of budget standard... not to be compared with the likes of Seoul Garden but good enough for a simple family dinner if you have kids with huge appetites.

Making comparisons among the many steamboat restaurants is quite easy really... because they all fall under the concept of own cooking and grilling. I judge them on the following aspects :
  • The spread and variety of the fresh and frozen food selection. This normally consist of the customary meat cuts (beef, mutton and chicken), seafood and shellfish (fish, prawns, squids, crabs, mussels, cockles), vegetables (kailan, cauliflower, bell peppers, kangkong) and the yong-taufu stuff (bean curd, fishballs, meatballs, crab-sticks etc.). Most places offer some form of noodles and rice vermicelli. Plain rice and fried rice are also normally available.
  • The tastiness of the broth. Most places nowadays offer two types : tom-yam soup and chicken soup. They now have boiling pots with two compartments so that you can have both soups.
  • The choice of drinks. Generally the drinks on offer are two or three types of squash-cordial drinks. Some offer carbonated drinks dispensed from those fizzy machines. Most places offer hot drinks but at extra charge.
  • The choice of sauces. The good restaurants offer three or four tasty homemade sauces.
  • The seating arrangement and general restaurant layout. Since the cook-your-own-food concept will involve a lot of walking to and fro the food counters, a good layout would be very convenient, especially when the dinner crowd is large.
To date, me and my family have tried eating at five (5) such steamboat & grill restaurants, and they are :
  1. D'Terrace BBQ Steamboat. Located at Jalan Md Amin in the Kolam Air area of JB. RM20.90 per pax, the last time we went there over a year ago.
  2. Kapten Steamboat & Grill, located in a new shophouse block near the State Education Department at Jalan Tasik Utara. When it first opened last year, they charged a fixed price per person. Nowadays they charge based on a fixed set menu, which sort of takes away the fun.
  3. Otai Steamboat & Grill at Larkin Impian, near the Larkin Stadium.RM19.00 per pax.
  4. Steamboat & Grill Cottage at Taman Austin Perdana, not far from Sultan Ismail Hospital in Pandan. The published price was RM17.50 per pax, but when I paid the bill I noted the hidden charge of the wet towels added to the total.
  5. Tropika Steamboat & BBQ at Taman Setia Tropika in Kempas, near the new Home Ministry complex. RM18.80 per person.
The last one on the list above was the latest one we tried and which I would recommend. They have a somewhat limited spread of meats but a reasonable variety of seafood and shellfish. The vegetables and frozen stuff is quite varied. Both the tom-yam and chicken soup have a thick taste, not the thin watery stuff at some other places.

Actually, the thing that make me like this place has nothing to do with taste. It's the crockery... they use quality Claytan stoneware plates and bowls. Most of the other places use cheap melamine plates which get deformed when exposed to the heat of the grill stove. Bent and distorted plates really take away a lot of the good impression of a restaurant.

If there is a single minus point that I may say of Tropika Steamboat is that they only have two sauces ; a homemade black pepper sauce and a commercially produced chilli sauce. Perhaps when I have become a regular customer of this place, I might drop a hint or two to the owner.

Okay then.... that's my post for `Another Good Makan Spot in JB - Part 5'.

The boys do most of the grilling
Coolers where the foodstuff are
Stove placed on a thick marble tile to protect the table

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Al Qamar

The full moon as captured tonight Tuesday 07.02.12

Blessed is He who has placed in the sky great stars and placed therein a (burning) lamp and luminous moon - Surah Al-Furqan : Verse 61.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Real old school

The boarding school that I went to, MRSM Kuantan, is 38-years old this year. Not quite as old as some of the more established boarding schools in our country but reasonably old when you consider that the first generation of students who came out of that place have passed the half-century mark in terms of age. And to further to illustrate this point on successive generations, two of my former classmates have/had children study at this same school.

1975 photo of a partially completed school. Pic lifted from Capt Norhisham Kassim's FB.
Maktab Rendah Sains MARA Kuantan, to give the school its full name, took in the first batch of students in 1974. The school facilities were not fully completed at that time but MARA pressed on and the us students persevered. The first intake of students, now known as Kuatagh Pioneers, were all boys. I guess they wanted to make sure the school was at least decently ready before bringing in the girls. The second batch who registered the following year had a mix of both boys and girls. You can imagine the excitement of the seniors at having younger sisters to watch over... you know, teenage puberty and adolescent hormones :-)

I enrolled at MRSM Kuantan in 1978 at the 4th Form level, so I am considered as the second batch, with K79 being our alumni identification number (1979 being the year we took our MCE/SPM exams). In the short two years I was there, I have plenty of memories, both good and bad. But we should not dwell on the bad for too long... better to think of the happy events and experiences that helped shape what we are today. All of us have moved on in our lives. Some of us are pretty successful in their respective careers while some are doing okay. But this disparity in achievement has never prevented any of us to reunite and have some coffee together. Whenever some of us meet up for a specific occasion, it is always happy chatting about stories of those mischievous years, of carefree days and youthful adventures. And then we would ask about some of our friends who've been missing... if anyone knows where this particular he or she is, or what he/she is doing today.

In 1979 when we were in Form 5, there were 121 of us who took the MCE/SPM exams, 34 girls and 87 guys. Although most of us regularly meet and do keep in touch, there are still a number of our friends whose whereabouts are unknown. Understandably, some of them prefer to remain isolated... and we respect such decisions, but we still harbour hope of at least knowing a piece of news that he/she is alive somewhere. This is important because we are brothers and sisters. Of the 121 total, seven of our batch have been called by the Almighty. These are the ones that we know... it could be more.

I am thinking of my K79 brothers and sisters at this moment because a reunion is being held for today and tomorrow at our old school in Kuantan. Unfortunately, I am not able to make it to the event although I very much want to. The last similar occasion I attended was the Aidilfitri reunion in 2010. I hear that the turnout may be larger this time, with some friends turning up after being MIA for 33 years.

This event is actually the 37th anniversary of enrolment of the second batch at MRSM Kuantan but the ocassion is not to celebrate the 37 years, rather the fact that Batch No. 2 students are 50-years old this year. This is somewhat a continuation of the effort by our seniors who held their reunion at the school last year. Whether this trend will continue with the K80 batch, we'll have to wait for next year.

To all my brothers and sisters who are in the old school today and tomorrow, do have a wonderful time catching up with each other. Don't embarrass yourselves in front of our younger brothers and sisters (who'd most probably call you pakcik and makcik). Take care and I love you all.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


I hope I won't get kicked by my friend Versedanggerik for this...

Three kicks

A lawyer was out shooting and shot a duck. As he was about to pick it up, a farmer appeared. "This is my land", said the farmer, "so that is my duck".

"I shot it," said the lawyer. "That means it is my duck and I will sue you to prove it."

"Round here, we don’t hold with court cases," said the farmer. "We go by the Three Kicks Law. I kick you three times; and if you can get back on your feet and kick me three times, the duck is yours."

The lawyer, reckoning he could kick far harder than any farmer, said: "Fair enough." So the farmer kicked him once in the knee, then in the ribs and finally in the groin. "All right," groaned the lawyer, stumbling back on his feet, "now it's my turn."

"Oh, forget it," said the farmer. "You can have the duck."