Monday, October 29, 2007

Mesmerized by a string quartet in Las Capuchinas

Yesterday was the last night for me in Antigua, Guatemala.

The media forum went very well. So did my two presentations in Citizen Journalism and Investigative Journalism.

The host – the elPeriodico publication – gave us an unforgettable farewell dinner at the amazing ruined chapel called Las Capuchinas.

The dinner was held at the vast courtyard of the chapel (photo).

We were also privileged to enjoy the performance of the immensely talented Paulo Avarado and his Guatemalan string quartet. Incredible musicians!

The night was utterly cold, the food truly delicious, the music enchanting, the place was really out of this world and the experience is inexplicable.

p/s: Am now at LA Airport (local time 2.38pm), waiting for my 12am flight back home.

More photos of Las Capuchinas here, photos of Antigua here.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

What a bunch of screwballs

I am talking about Liverpool.

First it was a drab draw against Porto. And the the shocker defeat at home to Marseille. And now this outrageous loss to Besiktas.

Looks like the Euro dream for this season is over, with just three games gone.

Something is surely wrong in the team. Rafa should address this quickly, failing which this IS going to be a miserable season.

P/S: I am at the LA International Airport, waiting for a connection flight that will take me to Guatemala for a media conference. It's about 4.28pm LA time now.

A long 18-hour journey, and a further 10-hour wait for the connecting flight, were just made worse upon the discovery of the Liverpool defeat earlier today. How sad!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fisherman nets factory worker

"Woman wakes up naked in budget hotel" shouts the headline of a story in the Star today.

According to the report, the woman, a 21-year-old factory worker from Penang, had agreed to go for a night out with a fisherman whom she had known for five years.

And then suddenly she woke up the next morning, naked and in a budget hotel, with pain in her private parts. She has since lodged a police report that she was raped.

The report stated:

"All the woman could remember was that she was with the man, in his 20s, at a nightspot in Light Street until about midnight on Oct 15.

She woke up at 4am and found herself naked in the hotel room with pain in her private parts but the man was nowhere to be found."

A case of date-rape? Or is she just pulling a fast one to lay the blame on the man? Who knows?
I leave it to your judgment to determine that.

My point?

Simple - be careful of what you drink on a night out with a casual acquaintance, even if you had known him for five years.

But if he is more than just someone whom you know, someone whom you had been out before, and had spent some time with, then make sure you don’t blame him after having agreed to go the distance with him. That’s unfair.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

A cover-up in the works?

The Lingam Tape is going to Hong Kong, it seems, according to a media report today.

Well to determine its authenticity by a reputable institution in that island.

And what do we want to achieve?
To see if the image of the lawyer in the video clip was doctored or not, a voice comparison of the lawyer and whether the identity of the person the lawyer is talking to could be ascertained.

And the cruncher?
The experts will attempt to enhance the voice of the person on the other end of the line with sophisticated equipment and technology.

What a load of rubbish!

My questions are these:
  1. Don’t we have enough IT experts to determine the authenticity of the tape? I am being told by my IT guys that it is easily determined - pixel test, sound match and all.
  2. Why don’t the investigating authorities just call in VK Lingam and ask him to verify the clip - fake or otherwise? If he says fake, then test for authenticity. If found to be not a fake, charge him for perverting the course of justice or what not.
  3. And finally the bullshit about enhancing the voice of the person at the other end. Won’t a simple check at phone records indicate who that call was made to? If not the other person’s handphone, at least his house or office number could be traced. After that, won’t it be simple to identify him. As it is, the context of the conversation gives us an idea as to who it could be.
My conclusion is that by going to Hong Kong, the authorities are just preparing ready-made excuses and justifications for saying that they couldn’t determine the authenticity of the tape and that there is no proof of any wrong doing. Case closed!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It’s all bad at the zoo

Have you been to Zoo Negara recently?

Please don’t. It’s not worth it at all. Not for the exorbitant RM15 they charge as entry fee.

What I found wrong with the National Zoo?

Well, here it goes......

The place was not maintained and largely unkept. More importantly it lacked the necessary attraction and imagination needed to keep people excited. Most importantly, there were not that many animals in the national zoo.

Imagine this, it is a zoo and all you could see were empty enclosures, with largely local domesticated animals.

Of course the tiger population looked like it has shrunk. Ditto for the bears, which looked like they were underfed as well. And then the bird sanctuary. Where were the birds?

The place is in a mess. I blame the entire zoo management lot. They have a total lack of idea on how to keep the place interesting. No guides around, no information leaflets or plaques. No help in general.

The pond looked like it needed a thorough cleaning. Just as all the animals and their pens.
There was a good crowd though yesterday. Mostly our ‘other’ Malaysians from neighbouring countries.

They seemed to like feeding the animals and just disturbing them in general, despite warning signs around them. I suppose only with the presence of more zoo personnel would this stop.

Otherwise, people will continue harassing the animals, causing danger to themselves and the animals. However no such personnel was around.

A zoo should be a place of education as well as fun for everyone. Not a place where you pay RM15 to enter and another RM4 to park and then find that there is nothing interesting it the damn place.

Some many things are not fine with Zoo Negara. It is a huge disappointment, a massive let down. Don’t think I want to go back there unless some major changes - both in the mindset of the people running the place and in the animal population - are made any time soon.

If not, Zoo Negara is slowly dying and will soon be gone.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Man in space - another BN project

All newspapers today highlighted the historic space journey of Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Sheikh Mustapha yesterday. Rightly so, I should add. After all it is not always we get to put one of us in space.

However I have always maintained that this was a useless effort for Malaysia. Even after all the euphoria of seeing our Angkasawan lift off yesterday, I still think this was a waste of public money.

Honestly I don’t see the government being able to somehow drastically turn us into a leading nation in science and technology field. Not when the government wants to concentrate on agriculture and almost has given up hope on heavy industries (Proton, Hikom, Perwaja come to mind).

As I see it, this space trip was just another ego-booster in the Malaysia Boleh mould. Well, we have lived up to that by sending a man to space.

PM says the second choice candidate too might get his chance to go in the next trip.

And what I could not digest above all was the way the entire space trip was turned into a religious affair.

We had an international fatwa forum to discuss how religious obligations should be performed in space. We had the astronaut himself as saying that he wanted to fast and pray in space.

And to top it all, Sheikh Muszaphar also said he hopes to get closer to God when he ventures to the stars during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

I am afraid that what should have been a scientific expedition has been hijacked by the Islam Hadhari apologists.

I fully agree with what Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang who said:

"Malaysia is sending a Malaysian who is a Muslim into space and not a Muslim who happen to be a Malaysian."

Next stop: BN ceramah in kampung in the run-up to the general election, with the government leaders making triumphant remarks that they have put a kampung boy to space - Satu Lagi Projek Kerajaan BN!

The cost? At the last count, slightly more than RM93 million.

The result? Another way to con the simple voters that the government is taking the nation places.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Aiyo, semua expensive now...

Just heard that 10 Nestle products will see a rise of 5.5% to 14% beginning Nov 1.

Items include popular beverages like Milo and Nescafe, growing up milk Nespray and Neslac, full cream milk Everyday and cereals are going to cost more.

This means most households would have to pay extra to get their daily dose of their usual breakfast. A few months ago, Nestle also increased the price of its Maggi instant noddles.

(The timing of Nestle’s announcement that the hike will only take effect after Hari Raya, but before Deepavali, only shows the company’s policy of disregarding the Indian community)

This bad news from Nestle follows an AFP story today that "the cost of basic items such as chicken, eggs, flour and condensed milk have all risen by up to 50 percent thanks to a price creep which began last year and has spiked in recent weeks".

The wire agency quoted a local woman as saying that her grocery bill now stood at RM500 a month. It was just RM300 for the same goods before.

Government authorities are blaming a drop in supply and bad weather for the high prices.

And to make matters even worse, a Bloomberg report today said we "risk running short of grain because the nation's millers can't afford record wheat prices".

Malaysian millers are now asking the government to rise the price of wheat-based products as "they are losing money on every bag of flour sold because of state-imposed price controls".

The effect of this is that ordinary things such as roti canai, noodles and bread will see a price hike soon.

Civil servant were crowing over their salary increment a few months ago. Since then prices of everything have been on the rise gradually.

We have also heard that taxi and bus operators too want to increase their fares. Come January, the North-South Highway will be asking for a toll revision as allowed under its concessionary agreement.

Electricity tariff has gone up. Water too has followed the same pattern. Fuel and cooking oil, need not say.

Everything is more expensive today. Our buying power has simply deteriorated tremendously.

But the government says everything is good and dandy. We (read: the government) can afford to spend billions to send a tourist to space. We can afford to pump in money to develop economic regions. We can afford to continue with the bail-outs and soft loans.

What we have failed to do is to make sure that the rakyat can openly say they are leading a good, quality life.

AFP report: Food price hikes weigh on Malaysian Muslims this Ramadan
Bloomberg article: Malaysia Risks Flour Deficit After Record Wheat Price

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Our place of history in space

In slightly more than 24 hours, our first man in space will be shot to the orbits in the 50-metre Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a doctor and part-time model, will represent our entire hope and aspirations to become a leading nation of space technology.

Our spaceman will be conducting scientific experiments such as seeing how cancer cells respond to treatment in weightless conditions.

Surely some other proper researcher would have done this in the past but then, hey, this will be the first time it’s done by a Malaysian/Muslim astronaut.

Never mind the fact that his choice to go to space was more akin to choosing a TV talent time idol. Never mind the fact that he is going to space as part of a multi-billion dollar arms deal with the Russians.

Never mind the fact that he has not done any proper clinical research on cancer while he was still a ‘normal’ Malaysian.

What is important is that we, Malaysia, have an astronaut. Or cosmonaut as the Russians are saying. Or even space flight participant as the Americans call him.

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An excellent art work (2)

Another one by AP Shreethar

Monday, October 08, 2007

Blowing away the chances

Liverpool were awful yesterday against Spurs. And they were lucky to come away with a draw.

Like many Liverpool fans, I am also fed up with the tinkering in the team by the manager.

Why can’t he just stick to his best 11 and let them play together?

I hope the international break would give enough time for the manager and his players to think over on how to win over the fans again.

All the fans are asking is for a settled team playing good football to win matches.

If the tinkering continues, the dream of a league title will remain just that - a dream.

This fan here sums up my views exactly.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

An excellent art work (1)

Really an excellent work by Indian artist Ap Shreethar.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

When bandh ruled the day

Last Monday was a unique experience for any non-Tamil Nadu residents who were in Chennai (the wife and I were there-lah) for it was a day of bandh.

Bandh? What is a bandh, we wondered too.

Our friends said it was called by the DMK government to protest over the brouhaha over the bridge purportedly built by Lord Ram.

Anyway, the bandh was declared unconstitutional by the Indian Supreme Court on Sunday and the DML-led TN government said it would adhere to the court order and invoke a hunger strike instead.

Given this new development, many thought things would be normal in Chennai on Monday.

But when Monday came, it WAS a bandh day after all. Places of business were closed - not voluntarily in many places though, schools shut, public buses remained in their depots, cities deserted, etc.

Of course the state government said it adhered to the court ruling and that there was no bandh (read TN CM Kalaignar’s response here).

On the ground however, it was different. Chennai’s buzz was missing. No incessant sounding of horns on the roads. Shops, restaurants and stalls remained closed.

Even the impressive Mayajaal amusement park which houses an excellent cineplex outside the city centre remained locked until 6pm for a show which started at 6.10pm.

All feared reprisals from DMK cadres if they had opened for business. Some in TN were roughed up for choosing not to obey bandh!

So, what is a bandh then?

Well, according to a Kerala High Court ruling, a bandh is:

"...the concept of a bandh as one where people are expected not to attend to their work or to travel for any purpose nor to carry on their trades, with a threat held out, either express or implied that any attempt to go against the call for the bandh would result in danger to their person and property. The court further held that although there may not be an overt threat of violence in a call for bandh yet there is clearly "a menacing psychological fear" of serious consequences to the person who disobeys the call."

Here is an excerpt from an article written by a former Indian attorney general:

"The court vividly pointed out that when a bandh is called no locomotion is possible. No vehicle can be put on the road because public and private vehicles taken out are attacked and damaged, no student can go to school, no patient can go to his doctor, no one can reach the airport to travel abroad, no lawyer can attend court and thus judicial work is paralysed.

The court did recognise that political parties and organisers have a right to call for non-cooperation or for a general strike (hartal) as a form of protest.

It however rejected the argument that a bandh with its potential consequences was the only form of protest available to a political party.

In the court’s view, a call for a bandh effectively precludes citizens from exercising their fundamental rights and was therefore unconstitutional."

Read Soli J Sorabjee article here.

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