Thursday, September 28, 2006

The dying days of loan sharks

Market forces are at work to ensure that people with sharp cash flow problem have now the option of window shopping for a cheaper interest loan. The only problem is that the lowest interest rate in the market are for illegal loans, courtesy of the loan sharks

Loan sharks, or ah longs as they are known popularly, seem to have fallen in hard times. Business is tough due to stiff competition from banks and borrowers are getting smarter by the day.

Gone are the days when borrowers react timidly to all sort of rough tactics employed by these illegal money-lenders.

In the words of one ah long:

"Borrowers are smarter now. If we harass them too much for repayment, they would go to the authorities. As such we are careful as to whom we give out loans."

Competition from banks and pawnshops too is having a major impact on their businesses. The same moneylender is quoted in The Star today as saying:

"Easier personal loans given out by the banks and lower interest rates offered by pawnshops are threatening our business. We have no choice but to reduce our interest rates to be competitive."

He added that in light of these unfavourable developments, some of these illegal moneylenders are forced to scale down their businesses.

"I use to have 10 offices in Kuala Lumpur, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor. However, I have been forced to close four offices due to slower business."

As a result, the moneylenders are now offering low interest rates of 5 percent per month - a drastic drop from their usual 30 percent. This is lower than that offered by commercial banks and pawnbrokers.

The Star reported that commercial banks are offering annual interest rates of between 4.5 percent and 10.5 percent for loans up to RM100,000, while pawnshops give out loans at 6 percent interest per year.

Are we then seeing the natural demise of ah longs in Malaysia? Is justice finally catching up with these thugs on behalf of all the ‘poor’ borrowers who were harassed, assaulted and humiliated for being unable to settle the high interest rate?

I sure hope so.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The new bandit queen

Remember Phoolan Devi, the bandit queen? This feared bandit-turned-politician was murdered in 2001 but not before her fame had been told to the world by the acclaimed director Shekhar Kapur in the movie ‘Bandit Queen’.

This low-caste woman had a rough childhood, married young and then became a widow very early. She was raped and faced many other difficulties in her life. To overcome all her problems, she created a gang of bandits and killed all her tormentors. She then successfully switched careers into politics before being gunned down in 2001.

Now, we have another dacoit coming fast in the heels of the original bandit queen.

Step forward reformed bandit Seema Parihar. She too is now setting aside her guns to enter the reel world of Bollywood. Her life story is also as tragic as the original bandit queen’s – kidnapped at the age of 13, and then went on to loot, murder and abduct people until 2000 when she finally surrendered to police.

Now, the 35-year-old former bandit - who is out on bail accused of around 30 cases of murder, robbery and kidnapping - says she wants the world to know her story. Her movie is titled "Wounded" and due for release later this year.

What next for Seema then? A political career beckoning? After that I hope she doesn’t tragically end up dead like Phoolan Devi.

Or alternatively she can just sweep the world with her acting talents. After all, the director of the movie calls her a “gorgeous heroine”.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Do newspapers have a future?

This is the question posed by Michael Kinsley in the latest issue of the Time magazine.

He says:

"It seems hopeless. How can the newspaper industry survive the Internet? On the one hand, newspapers are expected to supply their content free on the Web. On the other hand, their most profitable advertising --classifieds --is being lost to sites like Craigslist. And display advertising is close behind. Meanwhile, there is the blog terror: people are getting their understanding of the world from random lunatics riffing in their underwear, rather than professional journalists with standards and passports."

Being a journalist, especially one that works online, this is a pertinent question indeed. There has been a worldwide concern for a long time about how the Internet will effect the print media.

For a long time the print industry tried to brush aside the Internet tide, pretending that it will not have an impact at all. Then one by one the big media players slowly started to realise the potential of the online media boom.

Even now when we talk about online media, what we have are websites belonging to print players - some update their sites instantaneously while others prefer to upload their print version online. We still don’t have many stand alone online media outlets.

However with the explosion of blogs now, I think things the way we see news and we read news have already started to change. The Internet is now giving more alternative news to the readers, and it is giving it to them much faster, with indepth analysis and review, and with more colour than what the print media can do.

I firmly believe that the Internet will not kill off the print media but it is going to give the newspapers a close run in terms of influencing the readers.

Kinsley believes that newspapers will have to change the way they write their stories - by adding analysis and opinions in straight reporting can be a start.

He gives a clue as to how it would be in the near future:

"The Brits have never bought into the American separation of reporting and opinion. They assume that an intelligent person, paid to learn about some subject, will naturally develop views about it. And they consider it more truthful to express those views than to suppress them in the name of objectivity."

Read the full article here.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Where are you Osama?

What’s the real story about the ‘death’ of Osama bin Laden?

A leaked French intelligence report said that Osama died of typhoid in Pakistan in late August. The intelligence leak is apparently from the Saudi Arabia spy agency which is trying to confirm the matter.

However the Saudi government has dismissed the report as speculative, just as the spy agencies of the UK and the US.

I believe that if the Saudis have found something as important as this, they would have gone running to the Americans as soon as possible. And then the matter would have been leaked - even before any confirmation - to an influential American broadsheet.

The matter would NOT have come out as it did - through the French regional daily L'Est Republican which quoted France's DGSE foreign intelligence agency.

I believe that the report about the death was leaked with a purpose. And it has all the bearings of a spy game. Perhaps the leak was instigated by some spy agency to get Osama to reveal his whereabout - after all he will now have to satisfy his followers that he is indeed alive!

As reuters reported today, the French leak "was designed precisely to flush the al Qaeda leader into the open, prompting him to release a new tape that might give a clue to his whereabouts and state of health".

It has been five years since Osama gained prominence after the Sept 11 attacks. Since then the rumours of his death have been plentiful. He was to have died of a kidney failure, others said it was a lung disease and the Americans believed their bombs had done him. Now we have this story about his typhoid!

No one knows where and in what shape he is in at the moment - Afghanistan is confident he is not in there while Pakistan denies he is sheltering there.

I, for one, am eager to see him in video - if this leak is indeed a muse by the western intelligence agencies to reek him out - at least to satisfy my curiosity.

For an overview on the whereabouts of Osama and why it has been difficult to trace him, read this excellent article which appeared in the guardian recently.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Kuan Yew and his naughty comments

On Sept 15 Singapore’s veteran politician Lee Kuan Yew was reported to have told his local audience:

"Our neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They are successful. They are hardworking and therefore they are systemically marginalised

Indonesia and Malaysia want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese -- compliant.

We need a government that will have the gumption and skill to say 'no' to our neighbours in a very quiet and polite way that doesn't provoke them into doing something silly."

Understandably this caused some concern here across the Causeway. Yesterday, in the absence of PM Abdullah, his deputy Najib said this:

"I do not know the reason he made such a statement but it should not have been made at all. It’s a comment that we can do without and it is not appreciated at all.

We do not sideline the non-bumiputra in this country. What are in place are efforts to create a balance between the bumiputra and the non-bumiputra."

And he said it was up to the cabinet (read: Abdullah) to decide if the government wants to send a diplomatic note to protest Lee’s statement.

And then today the floodgates opened. Gerakan was the first to defend their community honour, stating that Kuan Yew didn’t know what he was talking about and that he had been up this sort of mischief all along.

An upset Gerakan president Lim Keng Yaik said the former Singapore premier had a habit of making statements which infuriate Malaysians over the last 40 years.

While his deputy Koh Tsu Koon waxed lyrics about how the Malaysian government tried to uplift all races in the country. He even said we Malaysians have it better than the Singaporeans.

I don’t know if this episode will start another round of tit-for-tat between Malaysia and Singapore. However these are my thoughts on it:

  • Kuan Yew’s remarks clearly fell within the long standing siege mentality which the island has adopted.
  • Najib’s response, instead of showing anger against Kuan Yew, looked more like he was defending the shortcomings of his government policies.
  • The Gerakan outburst sounded so pathetic as a political tool - both to curry favours from the local Chinese voters as well as to be in the good books of the big brothers at PWTC.
  • I am sure MCA too will be making enough noise soon for the same reasons.
  • Finally, when Abdullah comes back, he will pretend as though he has not heard anything about it, and when informed by the media, will say let bygones be bygones.

Humble pie time:

I was wrong on the final point. Abdullah did seek a clarification and got an apology note from Lee, and came out smelling like roses.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Speaking ill of the devil in its own home

"This is another abuse and another abuse of power on the part of the devil. It smells of sulphur here, but God is with us and I embrace you all."

The devil in the above quotation refers to US President George W Bush. Who said it, you might ask. Its none other than the president’s chief irritant - president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York just a day after Bush, Chávez was referring to the actions by the American authorities to prevent his personal doctor and head of security from disembarking at New York airport.

The Guardian refers to this quotation as "the phrase that will now forever be etched into UN history as one of the more colourful criticisms levelled at the US president from his own turf".

And there were more of that too:

"Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of. Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world".

The Venezuelan president than went on to make the sign of the cross, brought his hands together as if praying and looked up at the ceiling.

And how did the US react to all these?

John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, said it was a "comic strip approach to international affairs... too bad President Chávez doesn't extend the same freedom of speech and the press to the people of Venezuela. That's my comment on his speech."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Chavez's remarks were "not becoming for a head of state".

But the delegates and other world leaders seemed to like the sharp attack on the US, so much so they gave Chávez a vigorous applause that lasted so long that it had to be curtailed by the chair!

After all not everyone can attack the US president in his own turf.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Of generals and military coups

On October 12, 1999, the Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif tried to sack a powerful military general while the general was out of the country. When the general attempted to return to his homeland, the premier ordered the plane to be barred from landing in Karachi.

The general however had the backing of his fellow generals and soldiers. On his word, they took over the airport and allowed the plane to land. Soon after that, the general - Pervez Musharraf - took control of the country. He arrested Nawaz, exiled him and prevented almost all other political leaders from entering Pakistan. And after more than a year of military control Musharraf declared himself as the president of the country.

He had always maintained that he was only in power until full democracy was restored in Pakistan. Now he has become a close ally of the US in the fight against terrorism and in the TIME 100 Poll 2006 of "The People Who Shape Our World" he is ranked at number 14.

He has gained a stronghold of power and looks set to remain as the president until Oct 2007. In all, his temporary control of power can last up to eight years and we still don’t know if he will step down in Oct 2007.

Now fast forward to Sept 19, 2006, Bangkok, when another general - Sonti Boonyaratrin - cooly overtook the Thai government while Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

The general has promised to return "power to the people" as soon as possible. In the meantime Thaksin is still in New York, not knowing what will happen to him if he were to return home.

What happened in Pakistan in 1999 has happened in Thailand today - both were bloodless coup d'etat, both generals suspended the parliament and constitution, and both of them created a special committee headed by the army to rule the country.

These are not just confined to Pakistan and Thailand. In fact all military-backed coups have a similar trait. And they have one more common thing - all military leaders tend to see themselves as the saviour of the country, become politicians, stand in elections and finally do whatever is possible to remain in power. In short, they just become the person they forcible disposed!

My point is this: political changes must only take place through proper political processes. No one, especially the army, should be allowed to topple an elected government in the name of democracy through undemocratic means.

A government elected by the people will be toppled by the same people if it fails to do the needful for them. The military should be a silent observer of whatever political turmoil in the country. Politicians know what to do and how to do to solve their problems. And if they can’t, the voters can and in most cases, will.

As such I totally disagree with Gen Sonti’s remark that he headed the coup because Thaksin's policies had created serious rifts that needed to be healed.

And I agree with Malaysian Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang who said that democratic elections, and not coups, must be the way to change governments.

He added:

"Decades of Thai progress in terms of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law had been undone by the military coup."

Anyway, we await for further development on the restoration of democracy and rule of law in our northern neighbour.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The lying buddies...

This is what Dr Mahathir Mohamad said on Sept 11, 2006, as reported by malaysiakini:

"Abdullah always makes statements which are actually lies," Mahathir said, adding that he had "developed a habit of lying" after becoming friendly with the leaders of Britain, the United States and Australia."

This is what the US national security council East Asian affairs director Dennis Wilder said on Sept 19, 2006:

"Malaysia has a ‘great deal to offer’ to Bush as he reaches out to the Muslim world, and Abdullah is an ‘excellent friend’ of Bush as he advocates ‘the practice of tolerance and affirmation of all religious faiths’."

So the special friendship bit is proven. Now the next step is for Dr M to show the lies that link Abdullah and Bush.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Immediate vacancies – no experience needed

We all know how daring snatch thieves have become in Malaysia. Almost anyone you know would know another person who has been a victim of snatch theft. The situation is so bad that the government is now considering amending the Penal Code to increase the punishment to 14 years plus whipping from just seven years and whipping.

I don’t know when that amendment will come into effect but recently a letter writer had written in one of the local dailies that one way to overcome this crime spree is to ban pillion-riders in motorcycles. He has a point there as I don’t see how a motorist can work on his own to commit the crime – he needs a partner!

In the meantime, below is a forwarded (funny) email which reflects the current snatch-theft ruled world we live in here:

Immediate Vacancies

We are a local thieves gang specializing in snatching handbags in Klang Valley and Johor Bahru. We are seeking money-orientated and result-driven professionals to join our team. Successful candidates can expect excellent money and attractive fringe benefits. We are now seeking highly motivated team players to join our force in our recent expansion.

Snatch Thieves
(Klang Valley and Johor Bahru)


* To snatch women handbags on the street.


* Candidate must at least a drug addict, jobless bum, mat rempit or equivalent.
* At least 1 - 2 year(s) of crime experience in Malaysia (other countries may be considered)
* Applicants must be aggressive, daring, outgoing, and adventurous personality.
* Motivated and able to work independently, not necessarily a team player.
* Able to snatch things at fast pace and poses excellent motorcycle driving skills.
* Good command of vulgarity in spoken & written English, Bahasa Melayu, and Chinese dialect would be advantageous.
* Applicants must be willing to work in designated places, travel outstation & possess own transport (motorcycle).
* Applicants can be Malaysian citizens or illegal immigrant; jobless fresh graduates are also welcomed.
* Full-Time positions available.

Apply before 31st December 2006

(Please don't take this ad seriously...)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

‘Show me what Muhammad brought to this world’

Here we go again - a misinterpreted/misreported remark by the pope is about to cause a worldwide condemnation.

First lets look at what the pope had said, or have been reported to have said.

In a speech in Germany, the pontiff spoke about the historical and philosophical differences between Islam and Christianity, and the relationship between violence and faith.

Then he quoted Emperor Manuel II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire as saying that:

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Pope Benedict XVI apparently stressed on two occasions that those were not his own words and that he was quoting the Byzantine emporer.

Whatever it is, Muslims worldwide are not happy over this remark - either from the pope or from the Christian ruler from the past.

Criticisms have been coming fast and furious. The Pakistani parliament openly condemned him while Muslim leaders in Turkey are comparing pope to Hitler and Mussolini.

The situation in Turkey is interesting as the pope is due for a visit there in November. As it stands, a leader of the Turkish ruling party said the pope’s remarks looked "like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades".

In the next few days we can see more outbursts, protests and even violent demonstrations in the Muslim world. No matter whatever the Vatican says now to placate the situation will work.

What I am wondering is why should the pope make such a sensitive remark in the first place, even if he was only quoting someone?

I am sure the Vatican will be equally upset if someone ridicules and under plays any Christian tenets. Similarly the head of a powerful religious movement should also know what to say when, especially if it concerns some other religion.

Did someone say we need more religious tolerance?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Rude, rude Indian youths

I received this email through one of the yahoo groups in which I was inexplicably made a member (that’s another story all together now). Anyway, the email represents the worrying trend which seems to be facing the Indian community in Malaysia today.

Everywhere you see, you are bound to come across rude, crass and unruly Indian youngsters. I wonder how the situation has come to this but I do agree education and the social environment of these kids play a major role in moulding them.

Anyway, here is the email, thanks to the author, one Mr Ganesan S Pillay:

“One of the regrets I had in my life was NOT sending my two kids to tamil school.

When cultures comes together, beginning in schools, look at what evolves. Nowadays it so shocking to see many Indians taking over the BAD habits , practices and cultures of some ethnic people in the schools and even out of them.

You all would have read recently about a 16 year old girl who flushed her new born child in the toilet bowl few days ago. What was shocking was she is an Indian!

The male culprit was a relative.This used to be a different culture's story, how did it come here? Schools?

Talking about schools, a recent conversation between a Notary Public (Lady) and an NGO official was the rampant sex violations and abuse within INDIAN school girls and boys from the age of 13. Oral sex is the norm it seems, because it doesn't make one pregnant!

Closer to home, two of the fairly good schools, La Salle PJ, ( my son is in standard six there) there is always a bunch of INDIAN school kids, puffing cigarettes away under the walk bridge. When I approached them one day, they just told “Poodah Maire”!

The other school my 13 year old daughter goes to, Assuntha, has many Indian boyfriends (can tell by their behaviour and proximity) in motorbikes dropping and picking up Indian girls to and from school. Is this a case of parents neglect?

Neglect due to the strains of earning a living? Is this cause due to cultural assimilation?
Or is this the new age order? Somehow, I feel early Tamil schools education instills proper morals to Indian kids.”

Okay, that was what he wrote. For me, I find it unsettling to blame other races and ethnic for the bad habits picked up by the Indian youths. If at all anyone should be blamed for the sorry situation, it must be the community itself, the political leaders and the family of these youngsters.

Perhaps by going to Tamil schools, some of these rotten attitudes could have been evaded but how sure are we that the youngsters won’t be influenced by outside negative elements at all, especially when they leave the Tamil schools to go to the secondary level.

As I mentioned above, education plays a massive role in building a good personality in these kids. Good school, good teachers with good teaching will never allow these youngsters to stray.

But equally important is the stability these kids receive in their homes. The household must be economically viable and stable, the parents must have good communications with the children and above all the children must feel wanted and loved at home.

If we look at the wayward Indian kids today, what we find most is that their family background is not one that can be termed as being a conducive environment for proper upbringing.

There are many reasons for this - a failed migration from rural to city, squalid living conditions in a squatter area, the absolute necessity for both parent to work etc.

Thus, unsurprisingly, the children get neglected in these households and the result of that is what we see now in the unruly, rude and brainless Indian youngsters.

So then, if that is the problem, how do we overcome them? I am worried its too late to change the present lot. However effective changes can be made to ensure future kids don’t turn up like these. And for the present rotten apples, I am sure most of them will come back to the right path after a certain age!

And that means we have to endure these pain in the butt for some years at least.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Powerful frontpage item by The Independent

This is the front page from today's Independent newspaper from London, blaming British PM Tony Blair for the delayed ceasefire in Lebanon.

The daily quoted Blair's own minister as saying that Blair's refusal to call for a ceasefire during 34 days of slaughter in Lebanon may have been a mistake.

The minister added the Israeli bombing of Lebanon had been a military blunder that left Hizbollah stronger.

During the conflict Blair refused every challenge to join calls for a ceasefire.

Read the full report here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Putera Umno, Mat Rempits and Pesta Seks

You would have noted that in the recent past our roads and highways have been hijacked by the so-called Mat Rempits - motorists who believe in daredevil stunts using their machines, usually just to show disrespect for law and to win lucrative prizes which at times involve girls.

Then Putera Umno - the male youth wing of the ruling party - came up with this wonderful idea on how to cultivate these ‘mad’-motorists so that they can be turned into Umno voters and members.

With that in mind, the wing organised a two-day expedition from KL to Lumut involving about 8,000 Mat Rempits and their girlfriends last weekend. The idea was to get these youngsters to be part of the community and one of their tasks were to clean up a local mosque.

Whatever it is, the organisers supremely underestimated these youths. What happened next had all the signs of a classic civil service/ruling party blunder.

With apparent no one to monitor them, these youths started to have fun in Lumut. The locals there had complained to the religious department that some of these youngsters were involved in sexual activities, while others are said to have gone on a booze party.

Some of the female participants are accused of wearing revealing clothes while working in the mosque and some others are said to have been frolicking in the mosque’s ablution pond in broad daylight.

All these are reported in today’s Harian Metro tabloid. In all, these youngsters had had a good time at the expense of Putera Umno.

Unsurprisingly Putera Umno denies any of these took place and promises to organise more events for these 'wayward' youngsters.

Given the fun that the first expedition had offered, I am sure more Mat Rempits and their girlfriends will join in future expeditions. But whether they are there to be brainwashed by Umno is another question all together.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

‘Big mouth’ Mahathir tells it as it is

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is a habitual liar, so says former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The bitter feud between Dr Mahathir and his chosen successor does not seem to be abating at all. Mahathir is keen to keep up the attack while interestingly Abdullah prefers to keep quiet and let others to defend him.

Mahathir has once again stoked fire to the fuel by calling Abdullah a habitual liar, saying that:

"Abdullah always makes statements which are actually lies... he had developed a habit of can try and shut me up Pak Lah, but I have a big mouth and I am going to use this big mouth to expose all the misdeeds of the present government."

And he did not stop at that. Mahathir vowed to keep up his criticism, challenged Pak Lah to change or step down and promised that he will keep on talking and dared the authorities to jail him for that.

He said:

"Either he changes or he steps down...I will continue to expose all the misdeeds. They can try to shut me up. They can try to cut me out from all the media. They can try to stop me from talking....the only way they can stop me is to throw me in jail."

He said these in a hastily arranged press conference yesterday after his failure to be elected as a delegate to the November Umno AGM. He had originally planned to speak out at the AGM but now that that venue is closed, he has chosen once again to go public.

Mahathir also claimed that he lost the Saturday delegates’ election due to Abdullah’s orders to silence him. More interestingly he alleged that money politics played a role in his defeat there.

After making all the claims, the Tun flew out of the country for a 10-day overseas visit. In the meantime Abdullah has not commented on any of these but his minnows will surely have something to say, I am sure.

The next big thing will be the day Tun comes back to KL - expected to be on Sept 24. As it is, many of his supporters are planning to gather at the airport and surely, boosted by his legions of supporters, he will be tempted to increase the attack.

So lets see what else he has to say, and at the same time let us wonder as to why Pah Lak is not fighting fire with fire. Could it be because the truth hurts?

Another thing that perplexes me is that no one has sued or threatened to sue Mahathir for all the sweeping statements he has been making. Could it be that they are afraid he will reveal more in court in the event he is sued?

Monday, September 11, 2006

If Bush had stayed humble after 911...

"In 2003, Vice President Cheney advised the president to take out Iraq's Saddam Hussein militarily. But Bush was beginning to understand that his veep, while sounding full of gravitas, was in fact reckless. When it became clear that Saddam posed no imminent threat, Bush resolved to neuter him, Kaddafi style. When the president found, after a little asking around, that the 10-year cost of invading Iraq would be a crushing $1.2 trillion, he opted out of this war of choice."

Confused? You should be. This was not how it happened at all. As we all know, Bush did invade Iraq as a follow up to his war against terrorism and that has now brought upon a very volatile situation in the world.

The above paragraph is an alternative look into history by journalist Jonathan Alter in the latest Newsweek magazine. In his article, Alter ponders how the world will be today if Bush had taken a totally different step after the Sept 11 attacks in the US in 2001.

Alter concludes his interesting article by saying:

"Five years after that awful September day, even Bush's fiercest critics have learned an important lesson: leadership counts. Imagine if we'd done the opposite of these things. This country—and the world—would be in a heap of trouble."

How we wish the alternate view was the mainstream policy indeed!

Read the truly interesting article here.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Impact of job change

This forwarded joke found itself in my inbox recently. I really found it funny:

A taxi passenger tapped the driver on the shoulder to ask him a question.

The driver screamed, lost control of the car, nearly hit a bus, went up on the footpath, and stopped centimeters from a shopwindow.

For a second everything went quiet in the cab, and then the driver said: "Look mate, don't ever do that again. You scared the daylights out of me!".

The passenger apologized and said, "I didn't realize that a little tap would scare you so much."

The driver replied, "Sorry, it's not really your fault. Today is my first day as a cab driver - I've been driving a van carrying dead bodies for the last 25 years."

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Disappointing Liverpool

It is three games into the new English Premier League season and the signs are already not too good for Liverpool. Their record so far stands one win, one draw, one defeat, three goals scored and five conceded. This includes today’s terrible 3-0 away loss to Everton.

And then there were two Champions League qualifiers which Liverpool were lucky to scrap through. I believe that if the second leg had been played in Haifa, Liverpool would have been kicked out of the tournament.

So far goalkeeper Jose Reina has had a poor start – he has been making mistakes on a weekly basis. Not that the defenders are helping him out too. The strongest aspect of the team from last season has not started showing what they can do so far.

I know excuses will be ready for this bad start – that it is still early season, that the Everton match today came after an international week, that Liverpool might have an eye on the Champions League match midweek, that key players are injured or returning from injury or that new players need time to settle in.

I don’t care for all these. The point is that Liverpool started the season with a hype surrounding them that finally they have a team capable of competing for the top spot. However this team is incapable of actually performing like a top-rate team as yet. Defenders are making mistakes, midfielders are not controlling the games and strikers are not scoring.

As I see it, Liverpool will have to buck up soon or not this bad start will continue to dog their season. Based on what I have seen thus far, I don’t see this Liverpool team progressing well this season at all. In fact I think Liverpool’s best achievement this season will be the scrap for the fourth spot. Anything else will be an over-achievement.

I just hope they will prove me wrong come May 2007.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

(Some) Things don’t change at all

It’s good to be back home in Kuala Lumpur after an absence of almost a year of sabbatical in Sheffield, England.

The first thing that I noted as I landed in KLIA was that the haze is back! Driving into the city from the airport revealed just how bad the problem has been. I wonder what has happened to the Asean-level haze fighting programme that was set up a few years ago to solve this problem. Now it appears as though we Malaysians have begun to take the annual appearance of haze for granted, as a part of our daily life.

And then we still have the same old crazy vehicle drivers who just don’t care about using their indicators or adhering to the proper traffic rules.

Perusing through the daily papers, one item of news caught my attention. It was about how people in Penang had flocked at the Immigration Department to get passports after a rumour of a price hike. Some had queued from dawn to save their money in getting/renewing their passport.

How did this rumour started, no one knows. Apparently a Chinese daily had reported it and without checking people had just swarmed in, only to be told that passports prices were to remain the same.

This is not something alien to us. Remember the long queues whenever a rumour circulates about an impending petrol price hike?

And then we still have unmanned counters at the Post Offices, off-line computers at banks (even the really big ones) and software breakdowns in JPJ (Road Transport Department).

People are still crazy about just walking aimlessly in shopping malls and to their delight there are more shopping malls now as well.

More electronic goods are now being sold interest-free as long as you purchase using your credit card. There are more cars in the roads and there are newer roads too but somehow the quality of these roads is quite pathetic.

So what else is new in Malaysia? After one year, I think almost everything remains the same. We are still lacking the first world mentality which our leaders want us to have.

But still I am glad to be back home to all these.