Fun Malaysia

October 30, 2008





This blog

October 29, 2008

Very few people know that I have a blog, and they probably never visit, so the “no. of visitors” counter never goes up.  Some guy (Patrick?) asked me what it is about, and I never got around to think about what the theme should be.

To narrow it down would be difficult: I’m schooled as an economist who spent more than ten years in environmental engineering designing waste water treatment plants, where I’m really a phycist at heart, awaiting the appearance of the higg’s boson at the LHC in CERN sometime next year, subscribing to the relevant newsletters and blogs. What I really want to do though is to cook.

In an earlier post I listed down the places I lived in for at least a year, probably 5 countries & 3 continents.  I am of mixed parentage, and I do not share the heritage of most in my own country: Malaysia. I do not even speak the language competantly, which to me is a foreign language, and when the tongue twists, when I do try to speak it, I splurt out portuguese, of which I am fluent.  

I fly model airplanes, go to the performing arts center, live vicariously through some Jazz musician friends of mine in KL.  I have a daughter, I own a Volvo, I smoke a pack a day. I spent obscene amounts in restaurants, yet balk at overpaying for a pen at the stationery shop. I have friends, and yet no friends.  I paint with acrylic on canvas, but I’m no artist. 

I abhor politics but I’m more aware than most. 

What should the theme of my blog be? That’s why most of my posts go to file under “random bits”.

Junji Delfino at the now defunct Top Room in KL

Junji Delfino at the now defunct Top Room in KL

Borderless world

October 29, 2008

I once plagerised Ohmae’s famous dissertation as my own, in that Japan should solve its acute land shortage, labour problems and lack of natural resources by buying up part of Brazil.  This elegant yet outrageous statement instilled in me, amongst many things, the desire to view the world as borderless, that anything is possible. I was probably around 19, in college reading economics, and let off with a warning.

In a borderless world, as conspicuously evidenced by the European Union, good & services would flow through nations & states without barriers to entry and exit.  Instead of drawing lines around traditional borders between countries; the basque economic zone could include parts of France & Spain, Vancouver with Washington & Oregon, Singapore with the Riau Islands & Johor, and so on.  In fact, for the last example, Johor is in the midst of implementing an economic zone that aportions a large part of prime land in the development of such a cause, with the state & federal government investing billions, amongst the proposals a way for residents to travel between the 2 countries without a passport.

The human spirit thrives in a world without borders, unconstrained by the dictates of religion, effects of racism and the elitism of political machinations.  It nurtures creativity, compassion and the motivation to do exactly those. In principle.

Paraphrasing Sagan, how does a civilization attain technological advancements without destroying itself? We are simply running out of space; land, food & water, while the ability to destroy ourselves increases day-by-day with increasing sophistication (nee: nuclear weapons etc).  At this crucial moment in our history, tensions are frayed as nations try to consolidate their identities, religions are posturing and positioning themselves for more influence, attracting the downtrodden & the underpriviledged to jihad, as the powerful & influential promotes their own agendas. The ’08 oil crisis, stock market crashes worldwide, increasing food, transport & home ownership costs are testament to this; the dark side of capitalism, under-regulated to protect smaller investors, sophists exercising political will, un-modernised religions in governments and positions of power etc.

But from this lesson an opportunity.

In this world the key is for the rational and the enlightened to act, for “to know and not act is not yet to know” (Wang Yang Ming).  Secular education must be promoted, teachers should be trained, math & science the basis for knowledge of the world.  Arts & culture emphasizing not only our individuality but also celebrating our differences, encouraging at the same time improvisation and innovation.  Inter-race & faith marriages must continue without fear, and the adoptation of religion (or the discard of one) must be left up to the individual.  Gender or sexual-orientated bias must be abolished, first by the powers-that-be, then by society at large.  Standards of living & the promotion of wealth across all classes must be upheld, and there should be no one left behind.

All of these have to be done on the global scale.

The borderless world concept will be the impetus to generate this global movement, together with improved communications & the shared urgency in depleting sustainability and environmental degredation. To me, this trifeca of events will one day trigger the creation of a system that reflects the people’s will; how to source for the cheapest grain in the world, how to cut the middlemen, to how to know & select the right people representing you in government, the fastest way and cheapest way to a destination, the most efficient way to grow food, the clearest path to the correct information.

Efficiency will weed out the incompetant, the inefficient, the wasteful, the ignorant, the fucking idiots. 

The word: Arbitrage. This will save the world.

Playing truant

October 23, 2008

On our way back to KL, and we would have been able to get back to the office by 1630 hours, but we decided to detour to Genting Highlands for coffee (and eventually a side of lamb pie as well).  From the highway it took us 24 mins (15 kms) to reach the summit.

It’s a windy day. And cold.

But we're working!

But we're working!

Went into the casinos.  Each of us shelled out RM 50, and we had a pool of RM 150.  Played 2 turns of baccarat, lost RM 100.  Then played 3 turns of a dice game called “big-small”. You bet on the outcome of 3 die; 4~10 is small, 11~17 is big, and triples don’t count (another payout).  We won RM 150, for a net profit of RM 50, or RM 16.67 each.

Then we stopped playing, and went home. Our total playing time in the casino was 4 minutes.

Waiting in Kemaman

October 22, 2008

Kemaman feels like a frontier town, not one that we recognise from movies to have wind-swept barrels of tumbleweed rolling about, a one-horse question mark and every corner a potential steve mcqueen type action maybe-or-maybe-not something might happen.  It seems that all Malaysian towns on the east coast has this laid-back, by-gone era feel to it, probably because of an apparent lack of menace

Map of the Kemaman area

Map of the Kemaman area

Predominantly muslim, it is an orderly way of life.  Girls in Hijabs dot the landscape, only because they are easy to spot, and a constant reminder to conduct yourself in proper decorum. The main mosque is less the center of town though, unlike many other cities, notably Kuantan, where it dominates the skyline, but the Kemaman mosque does announce its intentions 5 times a day, calls to pious prayer, a haunting and beautiful chant.  

A river meanders through it, and life on its banks have tried to modernise. Somewhere, there is a KFC and an A&W’s, but no big macs.  Taxpayers have paid for some tasteless sculptures in town center, and a giant LED screen shows the time, date & temperature. But otherwise, the mood is decidely sleepy.   I breakfast at Hai Peng, deservedly famous for home roast coffee and toasted bread.  The best deal is the peanut butter and banana toast sandwich. I have read recommendations on stuffed crabs by the river. I have yet to try them.

Updates 21 Oct 08

October 21, 2008

2 years older but possibly not wiser, the dominant theme in my life is that I’d probably screwed up more than the average joe. 

Random snapshots: I’ve taken up flying remote controlled silverlit planes, made of stylofoam and embedded with a tiny motor, an effective range of maybe half a kilometer.  It brings quantum packets of some serene-ly spaced-out bliss.

Plane bliss

Plane bliss

RPK is in jail.  He is not my hero, but one to many who anointed him spokesman for Malaysian democracy & free speech.  He is not particularly eloquent, but he does offers good insight into the heart of politics in Malaysia.  In this climate, this epoch, should the impartial have the strength to be able to weave through some sensationalisations, conjunctures & half-cooked hypotheses, the facts seem strangely credible.  

I am now in charge of the KL HQ for my company, and taken up the east coast business, and fly 6 times a year to Delhi.  Stress has me putting on weight, and ironically I turn to food for solace. In these places, my songlines are treks to food stall and restaurants; the duck rice for lunch & the satay stall for dinner in Kuantan, a rediscovery for bakuteh at the Hokkien association in Klang (sublime), and Sanjeev Kapoor’s Yellow Chilli in Greater Noida. 

My daughter is almost 2, but I hardly see her, only in weekends.  My heart yearns and aches.

Maya with a bottle

Maya with a bottle