Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blogging is Fun

This is my 12th month of blogging, and I must confess that I am still enjoying this pursuit. I do make the effort to post at least once a day, and sometimes, I can even do two to three postings in a day. Blogging is fun because I get to write. I love writing. I get to express my feelings, my thoughts, and my ideas. As Sinclair Lewis says, “It is impossible to discourage the real writers – they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write”. Besides, I get to post anything I want, and anyone anywhere in the world can read my words. I can just about publish anything that catches my fancy. I do not have to wait months for some publisher to print my words on paper and then try to sell them. I do not have to wonder if the publisher will even respond. I do not have to sign anything in order for my writings to become known to the world. When I blog – I write and I publish. As simple as that. As of today, now, my blog has recorded 12,912 hits todate. This works out to 1,076 hits a month on average. A pretty decent statistic. A good achievement. Well done, Victor!

Liverpool was a real let-down. Stevan Jovetic scored twice in Fiorentina's surprise 2-0 win over the Reds in their Champions League Group B tie. Rafa Benitez was understandably peeved – in fact, he blasted Liverpool’s performance saying they were second-best in every area of the pitch! As he lamented, “We were giving the ball away all the time and giving them good chances to go behind our defenders” (The Malay Mail, September 30, 2009, p 40). The Reds did play poorly. And Benitez has vowed his side will "never again" be as bad as during this defeat on Tuesday (Webpage
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/default.stm, accessed today).


On the other hand, Arsenal needed late goals from van Persie and Arshavin to see off Olympiakos despite dominating their Group H tclash. Fabregas slid substitute Eduardo clear down the left and he squared the ball for van Persie to slam the ball home from close range (78). Eight minutes later, Arshavin appeared a yard offside when he skillfully turned in a low Fabregas cross. He deserved his goal nonetheless for an impressive individual performance.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Be Confident, Speak and Impress

This evening, I did my speech No. 17, which is actually Assignment # 2: 'Uplift the Spirit' from the Specialty Speeches series. My speech title was "Be Confident, Speak and Impress", and Area Governor Allan Gan, again, was my evaluator. He complimented me on my language; he liked my opening and my closing. He even added that my closing was impregnated with very many words of encouragement that were ‘uplifting’. To improve, he felt that I should not try to juggle too many points at one time; instead I could have selected one or two and expanded on them. He also suggested that I could have considered using the ‘Before & After’ technique, and dramatize it for good effect. Yeah, it is a great idea! Anyway, I was confident, I did speak, and hopefully, I did impress!

At this HICT Toastmasters meeting – thanks to Jonathan, we were able to use the Senate Conference Room and with air-conditioning too – we also witnessed two new members, Desmond and Vincent making their maiden speeches. And they were praiseworthy. For a person who is not easily impressed, I found them to be really good. Mind you, these guys have unmistakable potential. In fact, this meeting saw a total of 6 speakers – it demonstrated how enthusiastic members are to want to speak!

In his other ‘General Evaluator’ role, Allan did his tasks and more. But he surprised me somewhat when he also remarked that he thought my recent Humor speech was great, but that regretably, very few people could appreciate my ‘high-level’ jokes! If I could joke about the economic downturn, he surmised I must be good! Thanks, Allan. Given that we only had nine people attending this evening’s meeting, I additionally played the role of Toastmaster-of-the-Evening (replacing Shireen who was involved in the modeling rehearsal again). And as well as being an evaluator for Mike Cheang who was doing his assignment # 9.

Still talking about F1, Tony Fernandes’ other partner, Kamarudin Meranun has made the confident claim that the establishment of the much-publicized 1Malaysia F1 Team is an attractive business proposition and is expected to turn profitable in the first year of operations itself – as reported in The Star (September 29, 2009, p B1). Big talker, isn't he?

Monday, September 28, 2009

F1 Racing

Barisan Nasional buddy Tony Fernandes is believed to be the champion behind this daring (many say, stupid) idea of launching a Malaysian-owned F1 team when other established teams such as Honda and BMW are planning to quit. The argument goes that because Malaysia already has an F1 track, it will be better utilized, while at the same time allowing for the development of design and engineering skills and the rest that goes with making F1 a commercial enterprise.

Incidentally, that was much the same argument for the birth of Proton. The national car project was to develop Malaysia's design and engineering skills. But look at the state of Proton today – it is outstanding for its scanty and shoddy quality.

The benefits of this lavish F1 team project are less tangible as opposed to better public transport in our gridlocked cities or infrastructure in the rural areas in Sabah and Sarawak where it is not uncommon to have kids walk hours to get to school. To many, it is another prestige project that the country can do without, especially when so many other areas need improvements. The number of failed infrastructure projects amounting to billions of ringgit over the years has also fuelled public skepticism and even angry resentment.

Although nobody expects the team to make inroads in the first few races, there is another fear: that of the team getting lapped and limping home race after race, which brand specialists have stressed would be deleterious for both Lotus and Proton. Granted Fernandes is a known risk taker and a shrewd entrepreneur – but in this case, is he allowing his ego to get the better of him? Has he gone barking mad? Methinks, we are going overboard with this Malaysia Boleh nonsense!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Accident

Yesterday, I watched a Cantonese movie, "Yi Ngoy" (Accident) starring Louis Koo, and Richie Jen – this is a Soi Cheang vehicle that is best described as an urban thriller. It is not your typical Hong Kong movie though because there are no chase scenes and not even a single bullet is fired.



The main character, Brain, played by Louis Koo, leads a small band of “hitmen” whose modus operandi is taking out targets by making them appear as accidents. But Brain is paranoid when a speeding car kills his wife. His paranoia grows when he is almost run over by a runaway bus and one of his members, “Fatty” is also killed in an accident in spectacular fashion. He is convinced that he is the target of an assassination. It is a story about one person’s paranoia and how this paranoia ultimately consumes him to the point of irrationality and delusion. I found this movie to be both compelling and intriguing. In fact, I become so completely engaged with the movie - is there a puppet master behind thescene, pulling all the strings to weave a master plan of 'accidental' deaths? Or is the lead person the obssessed psycho, thinking that everyone is out to get him? The suspicion of both is never confirmed, but not rejected either. That's why I liked this movie and yes, I enjoyed it.


From left: Louis Koo, Michelle Ye, director Soi Cheang, Han Yuqin and Richie Jen, pose during the photo call for the film "Yi Ngoy" (Accident) at the 66th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, September 05, 2009 (AP Photo/Joel Ryan).

The Weisure Lifestyle

Today, I learned a new word called “weisure”. According to Word Spy (the word lover’s guide to new words), weisure is “free time spent doing work or work-related tasks. [Blend of work and leisure]”.

I also read this arresting article by Thom Patterson, “Welcome to the ‘weisure’ lifestyle,” that appeared in CNN.com on May 11, 2009, where the line dividing work and leisure time is blurring right before our eyes, and it's creating a phenomenon called "weisure time".

Many who haven't already abandoned the 9-to-5 workday for the 24-7 life of weisure probably will do so soon, according to New York University sociologist Dalton Conley, who coined the word. It's the next step in the evolving work-life culture.

"Increasingly, it's not clear what constitutes work and what constitutes fun," be it "in an office or at home or out in the street," Conley said. Activities and social spaces are becoming work-play ambiguous, he says, as "all of these worlds that were once very distinct are now blurring together."
…more and more Americans are using smartphones and other technology to collaborate with business colleagues while hanging out with their families.

Why do Americans want to mix work and play? Well, first, there's more work and less play, according to Conley's book "Elsewhere, U.S.A."

"For the first time in history now, the higher up the economic ladder you go, the more likely you're going to have an extremely long workweek," he says. These busier Americans often want to save time by taking care of business and pleasure simultaneously.

Obviously, the Internet offers nothing but opportunity for that.

People are more willing to let work invade their leisure time because, for a lot of Americans, working has become more fun, Conley says. He refers to this group of professionals who tend to get more enjoyment out of work as "the creative class," borrowing a term coined by author Richard Florida.

Their work involves ideas – perhaps helping create a new software product, ad campaign or creative financial derivative.

"This makes their work a source of meaning and fun to them, and thus the work-all-the-time mentality is partly driven by choice and desire," Conley said.

It's no coincidence, Conley says, that weisure has been growing simultaneously with the popularity of the personal computer, which has helped professionals with more tedious parts of their jobs – and has made many jobs somewhat more interesting.

Weisure has been fueled by social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, where "friends" may actually be business partners or work colleagues.

"Social networking as an activity is one of those ambiguous activities," Conley said. "It's part fun and part instrumental in our knowledge economy."
These networking sites offer participants in the weisure life lots of ways to do business – and to have fun.

Social technology "triggers a pleasure response in our brain that we want, even if it's quasi-junk mail, because someone's reaching out to us for a social connection. So we're addicted, some of us, me included."

Perhaps more disturbing is the idea that weisure is changing us. "We lose our so-called private sphere," Conley said. "There's less relaxing time to be our so-called backstage selves when we're always mingling work and leisure."

But, short of a nuclear winter or some cataclysm sending us back to the stone age, there's no turning back the clock on the spread of weisure, he says. The weisure lifestyle will engrain itself permanently in the American culture.

Jacqueline Pereira in her “Culture Cul De Sac” column in StarMag, Sunday Star today offers reasons for this weisure yearning, among them are gadget addiction, fear of losing a job and being ostensibly so inundated with work that we are unable to complete it in the given time (p SM2). She understands that Malaysians are similarly caught up with weisure too. It's a fast-paced world, after all.

Football Action

There were three games on September 26 that I was following religiously, and my 3 teams won all 3 games. Yippee!

Liverpool’s Torres showed stunning footwork to slot in a first (12th minute), before Geovanni's volley leveled matters (15). Torres then dribbled around Hull’s Boaz Myhill to restore the Reds' lead (28) and rolled in to complete his treble after latching on to a clever Yossi Benayoun pass (47). Then Steven Gerrard's cross found the net (61), followed by Ryan Babel tapping in Dirk Kuyt's cross (88) and finally Babel (again) unknowingly deflecting in Albert Riera's late shot (90+1) – Liverpool giving hapless Hull a 6-1 trouncing. Warning to Man U: Don't get too comfy where you are sitting right now in the EPL Table! We are hot on your heels...

Fulham were the better of the two teams, but Arsenal won it when Cesc Fabregas clipped a pass for Robin van Persie to take a touch and fire home (52).

Across the border into Scotland, Celtic played a boring game against St Mirren and the match only came to life when first McCourt (27) and then Maloney (78) strike with two great goals.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dear Penis

I have already arranged for 3 speaking slots and I am looking for just one more at any Toastmasters Clubs between September 28 and October 07, 2009 before I can conclude my Advanced Communicator Bronze speeches. I started on July 09, and if I keep to this planning, I would have taken only 3 months to reach this ACB stage. Not bad, considering that I took 8 months to complete my Competent Communicator stage. I am hopeful I can pull this off. With a bit of luck, I can. I am enjoying Toastmastering, I really do.

Mee Mee forwarded me this video clip which was “cartooned” by Chris Dill, and written and performed by Rodney Carrington – it’s a light-hearted ditty about the willy, simply titled “Dear Penis”. It’s cheeky and chirpy and funny!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Good Class Attendance

Today’s classes are well-attended, and overall, I am happy with the class attendance. I don’t believe many of them read my blog, therefore they are unlikely to know that I was displeased with the poor attendance on Wednesday. Still, I am glad that they are now taking my classes seriously. I do want these students to do well, but as they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink!


It is hilarious to note that Malaysian authority figures are falling over each other to pronounce that we are definitely seeing signs of economic recovery! International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed said as much on page 04 of today’s The Sun. And Bank Negara Malaysia governor Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz, came up with a similar-but-not-quite statement that there are signs of recovery, but only in domestic demand (The Sun, September 25, 2009, p 01). Mustapa, whose Cabinet portfolio is International Trade should have known better because this same newspaper carried a Bank Negara report that gross exports contracted further (-26.3%) in 2Q (-20% in 1Q) due to weak demand for our manufactured products and even commodity exports also fell by 40.6% in 2Q (-23.8% in 1Q). So my point is, we shouldn’t be so quick as to believe glib-tongued politicians and bureaucrats!

I do not often agree with what our former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad says or does, but his remarks carried by today’s The Sun echoed with my own belief, that “Malaysia’s economic expansion will be even greater if its people enjoy higher salaries and benefits which will lead to increased productivity” (p 14). Hear, hear! If only Malaysian employers are listening!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Modeling Rehearsal

I have been real busy with classes this semester – and I have not been following the modeling practices as much as I would like. But today, I did watch the rehearsal. This is for an impending modeling show on October 04 – I have been invited this time! – and we are seeing not only the familiar faces (from the previous show) but there are also the newbies. Thanks to Sheila Wong, my students get another shot at learning catwalk skills for runway modeling. Good experience for them, methinks. I am already looking forward to the actual event.

Ah yes, my MKT113 class today was well-attended. Everyone came!

I was just flipping through The Star yesterday and came across this headline on page N4: “2010 time for growth”. Deputy Finance Minister Dr. Awang Adek Hussin in this news report declared that Malaysia “had the capacity to emerge almost unscathed from the global economic downturn”. This is balderdash because it contradicts with what was reported by The Malaysian Insider yesterday when the Asian Development Bank said that recovery prospects are not so bright for Malaysia. If you were me, who would you believe? A government minister or the ADB, especially when the Malaysian government is fast losing credibility in the eyes of its citizenry? What green shoots? Phooey!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Back to College

My classes resumed today after the 2-day festive break, yet there are many students who are absent from classes, which is worrying. And these students who skipped class are not even celebrating Raya – so no excuses. SNHU students had better get their priorities right if they want to do well. Let’s hope attendance improves tomorrow.

Two of the League Cup matches being played yesterday involved Liverpool and Arsenal. David Ngog's clinical finish (66) helps Liverpool seal a 1-0 win over impressive Leeds United in a testing Carling Cup third round tie. Hehe, I wasn’t really keeping tabs on the going-ons of this League Cup – so, it’s already the third round tie, huh? Still, Liverpool won!



And Arsenal whipped West Brom 2-0, they needed 68 minutes to open the scoring, Watt pouncing after substitute Carlos Vela's shot was saved. Vela then took advantage of a mistake by Leon Barnett to tap in after Mark Randall's chip came off the bar (76).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ennio Marchetto

I am reflecting on the Humor contest, and how challenging it is to be funny. A person like me doesn’t know how to cackle, chuckle, chortle, crack-up, guffaw, titter – for the simple reason that I don’t laugh easily. I need more than witty one-liners or even physical comedy to get me into fits of laughter! What more than to make other people laugh? Some people are naturally funny. Some can make you laugh without really trying.

I wish I know how to make people laugh. I wish I can make myself laugh. Didn’t Mark Twain once assert: “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand”. I guess in my case, the only one standing in my way is me! Yes, come to think of it – it is true, kan? If I cannot laugh at myself, how can I make others laugh?

Why did I bring up this subject of laughter? I don’t quite know. Maybe I am trying to do a post-mortem of my Humor speech. Or maybe, I am trying to anatomize myself to understand how I can bring out my humor, if at all it exists inside of me. Or perhaps, I am looking at how to improve the next time around I participate in this Humor speech contest. Most likely, I am just babbling for no particular reason.
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But in this delusive and futile quest to find “humor”, I came across this comic who goes by the name of Ennio Marchetto. A living cartoon and world renowned and critically acclaimed comedian who has created his own theatrical language mixing mime, origami, dance, music and quick change costumes made out of cardboard and paper.


Very soon, I have forgotten all about my “un-funny” self, and I was checking out this extraordinary guy on YouTube. Enjoy…

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bento Box Lunch

UK's Guardian highlighted the bento craze in Japan in their September 18 online edition:

“It has taken the worst recession since the war to force Japan’s kitchen-phobic white-collar workers, known as salarymen, to get in touch with their inner Jamie Oliver.

Falling wages, slashed bonuses and fear of redundancy have shrunk household budgets, and for a growing number of workers that means cutting down lunchtime trips to the local sushi or ramen joint. Instead, almost 10% of men now take bento boxed lunches to work in an attempt to save money, according to a survey by a Japanese bank.

And in a sign of the shifting power relationships in Japanese households, many of the men now seem happy to wake up early and cross the kitchen threshold to create their own bento ensemble, typically grilled fish, rice, pickles and an omelette, all lovingly arranged in a compartmentalized box”.

And Guardian’s Tokyo correspondent Justin McCurry joins the latest craze in recession-stricken Japan and makes his own lunchtime bento box:


I am thinking Blackout Bistro should consider selling bento box lunches – I am sure they will be a hit! It’s time, Wei Wei, Iona and company return to their entrepreneurial roots and become creative once more…


In the SPL today, Celtic carved a dramatic late victory over Hearts, to finish the game with a 2-1 score. Hearts opened scoring when Suso Santana completed a solo run with a fine strike from 18 yards out in the 5th minute. Celtic had to wait for 51 minutes before a diving header from Chris Killen levelled the score after his earlier shot was palmed wide by Hearts keeper Janos Balogh. And a Glenn Loovens' close-range header snatched the points in added time (90+3).

Trusting the Police


I was surfing the Internet this morning for my daily dosage of news, when I saw Jacqueline Ann Surin’s September 18, 2009 article “Trusting the Police” that appeared in The Nut Graph (Webpage http://www.thenutgraph.com/trusting-the-police, accessed September 20, 2009). Let me just reproduce four paragraphs from this enlightening article:
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What did the police do when the cow-head protestors threatened violence on 28 Aug 2009 against the relocation of a Hindu temple? Nothing. What did the police do when a small group of peaceful Malaysians lit candles outside the Brickfields police station to show support for an arrested academic? Arrest them and their lawyers.

What did the police do when A Kugan was found dead in custody? Deny they were responsible. What have they done since an autopsy report found Kugan was beaten to death? Nothing at all to prove that deaths in custody will no longer happen.

What did the police do when thousands of Malaysians marched peacefully against the Internal Security Act? Resort to violent tactics to disrupt the rally and arrest nearly 600 people, including children. What did the police do when the Pakatan Rakyat Selangor government requested for police presence during a 5 Sept 2009 town hall meeting to discuss the Hindu temple relocation that was likely to get rowdy? They didn’t turn up.

So, there you have it. At least half a dozen reasons why people no longer trust the police or its ability to enforce the law justly and fairly.
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There are more to tell, of course, but the above suffices. It is very insightful and incisive writing! So, just from the above, can we trust the Police? Why should we? I am sure all of us had a brush with the Law? How was your experience?


Early this morning (still September 19 in the UK though), Liverpool met strong resistance, before finally overcoming West Ham, with a 3-2 score. Zavon Hines hit the post before Torres poked in the opener (25th minute), but Alessandro Diamanti equalized by scoring a debatable penalty that he appeared to touch twice (29). Dirk Kuyt stabbed in Steven Gerrard's header (41) and West Ham fought back with Carlton Cole nodding in Mark Noble's corner just before the interval (45). With the Hammers losing steam in the second half, Ryan Babel burst forward to chip in for Torres to head the winner (75). Three precious points to Liverpool.

Salam Aidilfitri, 2009


Here's wishing all Muslims: Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, maaf zahir & batin!
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The coming Bagan Pinang vote (i.e October 11) is going to be very interesting. It is widely expected to end Pakatan Rakyat’s winning streak in all by-elections in the peninsular since last year’s general election due to the high number of postal votes which are traditionally considered a dependable vote bank for BN. After all, Bagan Pinang is an UMNO stronghold situated within the Teluk Kemang parliamentary constituency represented by PKR’s Kamarul Baharin Abbas. But times are a-changing… Nothing is certain anymore!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Nigerian Complaint

BBC News today reported that the Nigerian government is asking cinemas to stop showing the sci-fi film, District 9, that they say denigrates the country's image. Their Information Minister Dora Akunyili has expressed unhappiness that the film portrayed Nigerians as cannibals, criminals and prostitutes. The film is about alien refugees who set up home in a South African shanty town called District 9. It is a loose allegory about apartheid and recent violence by South Africans against foreigners. But Akunyili insisted that it clearly took aim at Nigerians. Please lah, let’s not forget that this is after all, a work of fiction – so there is really no need to be overly sensitive.



In the EPL, Arsenal produced an incisive, attacking display to cruise to a comfortable 4-0 victory against a lackluster Wigan Athletic. Center-back Thomas Vermaelen rose to head the Gunners into the lead from a corner (25th minute) before curling in his second from the edge of the box (49). Arsenal's third came when a shot by Eduardo found the net (59), courtesy of a deflection from Emmanuel Eboue, who may well ultimately claim it. A back-heel finish by Cesc Fabregas in injury time (90) crowned a superb win. Good game.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Charity Music Gala '09

For RM10 a ticket, I attended the Charity Music Gala ’09, organized by the Helping Hands of HICT – their purpose was to raise funds for a “home” in Klang. Amongst other acts, the show featured Sasi the Don. I do think the audience made this event a success – especially the international students who loudly gave their whole-hearted support with their enlivened applause and boisterous cheering. A show can be mediocre, but the showgoers can transform it into a rousing and rip-roaring show!

Celtic surrendered the lead (25th minute) as Hapoel Tel-Aviv won 2-1 in their Europa League match. The Scots controlled the rest of the half, but Hapoel emerged for the second period re-energized. With the Scottish visitors pinned back, Nemanja Vucicevic slammed in the leveler before Maaran Lala stabbed in the winner from close range on 88 minutes. The defeat will leave a sour taste in the mouth for Celtic after leading for so long in the game, but their second-half display left a lot to be desired. Celtic shouldn’t be outclassed this way!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Daggers Drawn Over Stilettos


This news report by Michael Savage appeared in UK’s The Independent yesterday, highlighting the TUC (Trades Union Congress) vote to ban high heels in the workplace:

“Few women can resist the allure of a pair of high heels – and few men can ignore the results. By throwing the pelvis forward, the bottom backward, tightening the calf muscles and making the legs look longer and sleeker, heels accentuate a woman's natural curves – and that's before she even starts walking.

However, the appeal of stilettos appears to be lost on delegates at the Trades Union Congress, who demanded… that employers take a stand against the risks of wearing high heels in the workplace.

Speakers at the TUC conference in Liverpool labeled the style sexist, saying the shoes caused women serious health problems and cost the economy millions in lost working days. They said employers should be compelled to carry out risk assessments on heels, and they ‘should be replaced with sensible and comfortable shoes’...”.

I am not surprised women cannot resist high heels. I too am captivated by the sight of stilettos and even fishnet stockings in matte black.

And now football news. Arsenal went 2-0 down in five minutes to Standard Liege in the Champions League Group H opener. The Gunners regained their composure and hit back on the stroke of half-time through Nicklas Bendtner, before Thomas Vermaelen tapped home and Eduardo converted a Cesc Fabregas corner from close range with his knee to complete the comeback. The final score: 3-2 in Arsenal's favor.


Meanwhile, Dirk Kuyt's goal (in first-half stoppage time) proved enough for an unconvincing Liverpool in a 1-0 win against Hungarian champions, Debrecen in their Group E opener.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Malaysia Day


Today is Malaysia Day – it was today – and not August 31, 1957 – that the Malaysian federation came into being, way back in 1963. We on the peninsula are prone to forget this detail. No wonder: we celebrate Merdeka with great fanfare – but Malaysia Day is not even a public holiday. Needless to say, there are no official celebrations of September 16 in KL, today. The Klang Valley editions of English-language dailies The Star and New Straits Times and even The Sun don't even mention Malaysia Day anywhere on their front pages.

(Instead, they announce Prime Minister Najib Razak's decision to spend an annual $40 million for a 1Malaysia F1 team. And who says, we are operating on a deficit budget?)

Officially, we disregard the inclusion of a majority of Malaysia's landmass. No wonder East Malaysians identify themselves by state first and nationality second; we treat Sabah and Sarawak like colonies.

So what are Malaysians doing to commemorate the birthday of our nation? Representatives from women's NGOs and women activists from Pakatan Rakyat marked this day with a demonstration at Putrajaya, according to a tweet by Selangor assemblywoman Elizabeth Wong. They protest the ongoing inaction with regards to the year-old issue of sexual abuse of Penan women in Sarawak. No other issue better symbolizes the federal government's neglect of its "far-flung" territories.


Non-governmental organizations and concerned citizens taking part in a protest outside the prime minister's office on Malaysia Day (Pic courtesy of the All Women's Action Society)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oh, you hate your job?

“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar” so said Drew Carey! But remember, just when you think your own job sucks – there are other jobs that are far worse than your own!

Imagine if you are this electrician. Or a zookeeper.


Or a plumber. Or a delivery service employee.


Or a deodorant tester. Or a mobile toilet.

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That’s right! The grass is not always greener on the other side.
But it sures beats not having a job!

Liverpool FC's Shirt Sponsorship

Liverpool have been sponsored by Carlsberg for 17 years but from next season, will have London-based Standard Chartered on their shirts – in a sponsorship deal reportedly worth £80m over four years, according to UK's The Independent and Guardian newspapers. Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow said that Standard Chartered's global status reflected Liverpool's ambition to be the best football club in the world.

I am sorry that Carlsberg’s relationship with Liverpool will end – but with Standard Chartered, we could potentially see Liverpool playing in Malaysia in the near future – considering that Carlsberg was an impediment all this while because it is a beer brand!

Gareth Bullock from Standard Chartered Bank, left, Liverpool ambassador Kenny Dalglish and Christian Purslow pose at Anfield. Photograph: Tim Hales/AP.

Shobana Thrumalingam, another of my lecturers has quit. Sigh… finding good teaching staff is already a real challenge, but keeping good teaching staff is an even bigger challenge! Life at HICT just gets tougher!

Monday, September 14, 2009

2nd Runner-up in Humorous Speech Club Contest

Today, I participated in the Area C3 Humorous Speech and Evaluation Contests. Thanks to Mathew, I was conscripted into taking part in something – the Humorous speech contest in particular – where I know I am a real dunce because I am so un-funny!It was also my first time at contesting!
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Still, it was a challenge for both of us (Mathew and I) because we were greenhorns, but guess what? There were 5 contestants, and when they announced the winners, I emerged second runner-up (my title was “Downturn Humor”) and Mathew came out the winner! I did alright, but Mathew was really in his “funny” element, and so deservingly won the contest. In the Evaluation contest, again there were 5 participants – Mike Cheang and I took part – but both of us came out empty-handed.

Overall, it was a very good experience for me. Personally, I have no complaints about my speeches – granted that they could always be improved upon. In any case, I have enjoyed the contests immensely, and hopefully, I can do better the next time around. It was very heartening to note that there were twelve of us who made the journey from Klang to Sime Darby Healthcare in Subang Jaya to support the challengers representing HICT Toastmasters Club. Thanks, people!

Evelyn Tan (middle) called us the "humorous Toastbread champions"!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Who are the Penans?



The Penans are a small Sarawakian community of about 12,000 people, living in the remote upper reaches of the Baram and Rejang rivers. The so-called “development” brought in by the logging and plantation industries have resulted in endless grief for the Penans, though the opening of the rainforests has brought immense wealth to a few politically-connected individuals.
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Even as you read this, there are a few Penan blockades in the Baram region where they try to challenge the might of the bulldozers with their blow pipes and their bodies. In the Bakun area in upriver Rejang, some 3,000 Penans are suffering from an acute shortage of food because of failed crops and destruction of their food source in the jungle.

The rape of young Penan girls may still be going on.

Please do not for a moment think that the Penans are far away, out of sight, and therefore out of mind. They are like you and me, fellow Malaysian citizens who should benefit from the fruits of independence and development. Be aware that these people are our fellow Malaysians.

Uninspiring Football Results

More EPL news. Arsenal superbly managed to lose to Manchester City by an unflattering 2-4 score. As in their last game, the Gunners appeared the most likely winner but they finished on the losing side.

In the SPL, Celtic fared better – but could only earn one point in a 1-1 draw with impressive Dundee United, McDonald scoring the solitary Celtic goal in the 17th minute.

Also, Malaysiakini yesterday noted that "on Sept 8, the Sarawak CID chief senior assistant Commissioner II Huzir Mohamad told The Star that unless the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry can furnish them with details such as names, place, and time, the police cannot do much investigation.This really takes the cake. The police are paid by the taxpayers to investigate the reports of crimes. A year after the police reports had been lodged, they are still waiting for the ministry to do their police job. Talk about Little Napoleons!"
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And also "the police are simply not culturally sensitive to the unique Penan way of doing things. To them, the Penans are the subaltern objects of administration, and not subjects like all other Malaysians whose life and personal security the police are paid to protect". Well-said!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sarawak Denial

It is not surprising therefore that when the Penan story unfolded last year, august Sarawak leaders dismissed these allegations of rape of Penan girls and women – as reported in Hornbill Unleashed (http://hornbillunleashed.wordpress.com/, posted September 12, 2009):

Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud said the reports were nothing but “lies” and demanded that the newspapers corrected them. "Check your information or you will be suspected by the decent people of Sarawak of trying to sabotage us when we have toiled to develop
our state,” Taib said.

Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu who is the chairman of the steering committee on Penan Affairs said that it would be a waste of time to investigate. He said: "I have not heard of such complaints from the Penan communal leaders in my many visits to Ulu Baram".

Sarawak Rural Development Minister James Masing described the Penans as "good storytellers".

I am glad the international break is over! In the EPL, Liverpool decisively swept past Burnley 4-0 in today’s game, the Reds scoring through Benayoun (27, 61, 82); and Kuyt (41).

The Suffering Penans

It is sickening, even shocking that no less than the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry of Malaysia had to finally admit that Penan girls and women had been raped in the interior of Sarawak (Star, September 12, 2009, p N3) – where timber barons controlled huge swathes of land, which are also home to thousands of natives. The news report carried former Catholic priest turned social activist Michael Jok’s appeal that these reports of sexual abuse should be reason enough for the state government to step in. Sahabat Alam Malaysia field officer for Sarawak, Jok Jau Evong had even claimed that security barriers were found in every timber concession zone in the state. “NGOs are often prevented from entering even if we apply for permits. This sort of totalitarian power is unhealthy. The Government must remove it,” he had said.

In fact, according to Malaysiakini (September 12, 2009), the story first broke in October last year when some Penan rape victims came to Kuala Lumpur in the company of a few women NGOs to seek redress for their plight.

Sim Kwang Yang (MP for Bandar Kuching, 1982-1995) wrote in Malaysiakini today: “Because of the seriousness of the allegations and the publicity around the issue, a special task force was set up on Oct 8, 2008 under the then Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Ng Yen Yen. The task force also included representatives from a number of other ministries. A delegation had indeed visited the Penan settlements to interview the rape victims (November 10-15, 2008, according to the National Taskforce report). They were helped by the local NGOs, and did not encounter much problem during their investigation. A source reported that one female official was sobbing as she was taking down the testimony of the rape victims”. Needless to say, the task force did document these crimes.

Full details (in Malay) can be read from the 112-page “Women, Family and Community Task Force Investigation Report on Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Penan Girls and Women in Sarawak” (http://hornbillunleashed.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/penan-ir.pdf, posted September 08, 2009). Keadilan Wanita had demonstrated outside of (the current Women, Family and Community Development Minister) Shahrizat’s office on September 08, 2009 before they successfully obtained a copy of the said report.

Worse, The Star today had reported also that since 1995, the police have investigated 14 reports of alleged rape in Baram, Sarawak. And in January this year, a task force comprising Bukit Aman and Sarawak Police was formed to investigate these rape allegations in nine settlements – but it had been claimed that the ‘rape victims’ had refused to talk! It makes us wonder if these are merely pretexts by the authorities to wash their hands of this. Shelter Home executive director James Nayagam retorted: “The police excuse that they could not act on the culprits due to lack of details was not acceptable”. I agree. This is a cop-out!

Sim Kwang Yang had penned in his communal blog, Hornbill Unleashed (http://hornbillunleashed.wordpress.com/2009/09/11/3823/, posted September 11, 2009) that “rape is an expression of power over the victim as much as it is a crime of passion or lust. Therefore it is no surprise to learn that schoolgirls as young as 10 years old have been molested, abducted and raped by loggers. These loggers carry out these crimes because they can. The rapists feel secure in the knowledge that even when police reports are made, as in the cases of “Cindy” and “Bibi” described in the Ministry’s report, Bukit Aman and the Sarawak Police sit on the reports and do nothing.

Marudi Police Chief DSP Jonathan Jalin, for example, insulted the victims of these sex crimes, when he said police “investigated” reports by asking timber camp workers and schoolteachers whether such crimes had taken place. The loggers and teachers said no, and the police looked no further”.

It is shameful that this is happening right under our very noses in our own country. If Sarawakians don’t seem to care, then it is time that other Malaysians lend their voices to demand justice! Given the lackadaisical attitudes and the pervasive apathy of the authorities, we may not see justice done immediately. But do remember, we do have the power, through the ballot box – and the duty – to see that justice is done, one day.

As Sim quizzed: “Imagine your daughter or sister abducted and abused by loggers who had invaded your neighborhood. Would you still believe the authorities touting this as ‘development?’ Or would you insist logging activities be withdrawn immediately, until logging and plantation activities can be made accountable and beneficial to local communities?” Speak up, Sarawakians! Wake up, Malaysians to the injustices that befell fellow Malaysians!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The American 4+0

Yesterday, I gave Speech # 3 from the Specialty Speeches series titled “The American 4+0” since I am supposed to “sell a product”. So it makes good sense to talk about my College product, i.e. the undergraduate program that we are offering here in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University, USA. The 4+0 means that students intending to have an American education may do so wholly in Malaysia, without having to set foot on American soil! This is important because study costs are considerably lower than if students go to the US for their tertiary education, even if at SNHU.

My evaluator was visiting Sri Lankan ACB CL Suresh Kumar, who incidentally is also an A3 Governor, for District 82. His first opening statement? I speak confidently and with conviction. I cannot disagree with him on this score. And he thought I was good, and I spoke well. Again, I will not deny this. But it is also true that I could have done better. Besides ACB Ramesh, there were others (in the Open evaluation session), who commented too. Firstly, I tried to achieve far too many things in this assignment – my speech would have been better-served if I had focused on a couple of salient points instead. ACG CL Wei Seong reminded me that I could have made my ‘sales’ presentation more personal; he didn’t feel engaged as a member of the audience – I had made it like a ‘lecture’. Sigh, very true! ACB CL Nancy opined that my slides were really good – they were so good that they took center-stage! Sigh, again so true! And I know my 78 slides were really very excessive, I should have ruthlessly downscaled them to only 10 slides or so. Still, overall, my speech was okay lah – taking into consideration all the above-mentioned feedback.

And if there are people who are over the moon because green shoots are supposedly sprouting profusely all over the place, this news from Malay Mail should somewhat restrain their exuberance, and prompt caution: “US is economically unstable” (September 09, 2009, p 17) – the World Economic Forum made the pronouncement that the US fared badly in an assessment of world economies, with the financial crisis accentuating its weakness as one of the most economically unstable nations. Although its overall ranking of second only to Switzerland in the WEF’s 2009 Global Competitiveness Report, the US is placed 93rd among the 133 countries in terms of macroeconomic stability. According to this report that I read, repeated fiscal deficits have led to burgeoning levels of public indebtedness, which are presently being exacerbated by significant stimulus spending. And with the low national savings rates – these have helped drag the US down.

On the same note regarding this WEF Global Competitiveness Report for 2009/2010 – it is worth mentioning that Malaysia’s global competitiveness ranking has dropped to 24 from 21 last year (The Sun, September 11, 2009, p 14). This is worrying but you may ask, what are the reasons for this deteriorating situation? Amongst the reasons for Malaysia’s declining competitiveness were lack of public safety and security, a much poorer assessment of their institutional framework and the growing budget deficit of 5% of GDP last year and 7.6% of GDP this year. I just hope that we are not in self-denial again.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Tough 'Humor' Project

For this evening’s Toastmasters meeting, I am going to use 78 PowerPoint slides to support my Specialty Speeches assignment # 3. I finally managed to complete these slides by 01:44 this morning. The duration of the speech is 10-12 minutes long.

But I am still nowhere near to preparing for the fast-approaching Humorous Speech contest... Can anybody help me with ideas? I reckon it's tough because being funny is tough. I am not even a funny person. Also, this is my maiden attempt - so give me a chance lah!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pei Ling's Birthday

Pei Ling announced in my MKT113 class that it’s her 18th birthday today (oops, yesterday, because it is now early Wednesday morning!), and so, we all sportingly sang her ‘Happy Birthday’ in English, Mandarin, and even Tamil. And thereafter, a group of us – staff members and students – converged at Bar-B-Q Plaza in Aeon Bukit Tinggi for a celebratory meal. It wasn’t pre-planned but at the end of the day, it turned out really swell for Pei Ling – she was ecstatic and euphoric – and for us, at least, this get-together was especially meaningful and worthwhile.
Martin and me engrossed in deep thought

Pei Ling was trying to snap us but Diana got to her first!

I was supposed to do another speech at Extol Toastmasters Club meeting this evening, but discovered that I actually got the date mixed up – the meeting is supposedly to be next Wednesday, September 16 and not September 09. Oh well, this gives me a little bit more time to prepare – after all, it is a challenging speech. Still, I have my regular Toastmasters meeting tomorrow anyway.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Speak Off the Cuff

I went to the KL Advanced Toastmasters Club meeting today, and did assignment # 1: Speak Off the Cuff from the Specialty Speeches series. My evaluator was John Gicquel, and he had written the five topics onto neatly-folded slips of paper. Just before I was called to speak, I was asked to pick one of these slips – and the ‘chosen’ topic was “What is Strategy?” not exactly a subject I had wished for. In any case, I had done some research on this topic, so I really didn’t encounter any problem(s). Besides, this is not really an unfamiliar subject for me. John gave me good marks, saying that my confident delivery and fact-laden content gave him the impression that it was a prepared speech, rather than an impromptu one. Overall, it was a good speech, but as always, there were pointers for improvement – this time, there were three things I had to watch out for: clasped hands at the start of my speech, my positioning, and I was speaking a little too fast, at least according to Lorna Fisher.

Like all advanced Clubs, there is an open evaluation session, and it was heartening to note that members were happily giving useful feedback. I like the fact that this club requires all members to take their Toastmasters oath at the onset of the meeting, and the other thing that is different (from the other Clubs that I have visited thus far) is the inclusion of poetry reading/interpretation – today, it was a ‘fun’ poem (about "dogs disco-ing in the doghouse") read by ACG CL Bill Sim, the Club President. I must thank Lorna and Chase (and of course, the Club too) for giving me this chance to speak this evening. And yes, I would like to return to this Club for I have enjoyed the meeting today. I really did!

Claiming my Blog at Technorati.com

Guess what? I joined Technorati.com today, by claiming my blog – and my ranking is 1,603,173 – this really puts everything into perspective, does it not? Gosh, do you realize how many blogs there are out there? I remembered reading this the other night: As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs.

Also, as I was checking out the Technorati blog, I discovered this interesting interview of
Lee Odden, TopRank Online Marketing with Richard Jalichandra, CEO. It’s about why marketers should use social media as a marketing vehicle. There are obviously viral and engagement opportunities in social media, but it's important to remember that there's a pure media play necessary if any type of consistent scale is to be achieved, so says Jalichandra. Here’s a video of the conversation:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Political Myopia

It’s the same thing this evening – engaging in research for my speechmaking tomorrow. I was able to put together facts for two topics yesterday, and tonight, I will collect data for another 2 more, maybe even 3 topics.

I read the article "The War Against Imaginary Enemies" in the Sunday Star today, and agree wholeheartedly with what Zainah Anwar had written. These two paragraphs are especially illuminating: “If we do not find a way to be politically and culturally civil in our contested public engagement fast, then this deliberate strategy to construct every dispute into a threat to race and religion will eventually implode on us.

March 8, 2008, was one safety valve where the emergent diverse social forces within our society used the ballot box to express their discontent. But it seems too many of our political leaders and their earnest supporters at the grassroots remain untutored to the changing mood of the rakyat (p F30).
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That’s why many of us are waiting impatiently for the next General Elections, so that we can decisively defeat these malcontents and bring them to their knees. Obviously, the March 08 election results were a pretty forgettable lesson! If only these politicians care to look at themselves in the mirror. If they do, they could see that UMNO is sickly, MCA is torn asunder, MIC is disintegrating, PPP is split into two, and Gerakan is nearly becoming extinct. Whatever their condition, life goes on very much the same as before because they have been diseased by complacency, arrogance, and stupidity. But then again, perhaps they cannot really see because they are already blind...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gay Mood

This evening I started surfing the Internet and doing some research in preparation for my speech this coming Monday. I have furnished 5 topics and I will have to speak on one of these 5 subjects for 5-7 minutes – this speech is “Speak off the Cuff”, that’s why. I am really into Toastmasters, aren't I?


I just managed to upload this photo of the three of us (me, Arun and Edric) engaging in tomfoolery at TGI Friday’s a month or two ago. If you remember Arun – he’s the guy who like me, is equally passionate about Liverpool FC; and Edric – he’s the one in the Lifebuoy and DiGi commercials.

We are in a gay (read, showing or characterized by cheerfulness and lighthearted excitement; merry) mood. A real bunch of cuties!

Friday, September 4, 2009

PAC on PKFZ

I happened to read The Star yesterday, and I thought it was really funny! Y'see there was this news report about the scandal-plagued Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) and that the Public Accounts Committee was taken aback by the poor management skills of the former general manager (i.e. OC Phang) who unashamedly admitted that she was clueless as to “what cash flow projection” means. Now this is appalling, if not outrageous. PAC chairperson Azmi Khalid had said that any business entrepreneur would have known about projection of income, expenditure and cash flow. He added: “You make projections of the best estimates that you can make of your expenditure and income because you can then monitor the project. The Port Klang Authority (PKA) management didn’t have this in place” (p N4). It may come as a shock to most people, but then when you consider that this is Malaysia, where everything is possible, and anybody can be appointed to assume governmental or even corporate positions, as long as you are politically-connected. Malaysia Boleh, right?

I wish to take this opportunity to thank my students who have sent tidings of support and posted similar messages – they are deeply appreciated. When you are a lecturer as I am, it is a great feeling to know that once in a while, your students convey their sincere expressions of thanks for the work that you put in. It makes all the hard work and sacrifices worthwhile. I am overwhelmed. I am grateful. I am humbled.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

SNHU Class Ring

Classes are now in full swing. This semester, I am adopting a more action-learning approach. I am using role-plays, story-telling, movies, and YouTube video clips to deliver my lessons – in addition to the conventional PowerPoint slides. I believe these will make my lessons to be more interesting, and students learn more effectively.

We have also finalized the design of the SNHU class ring, and a jeweler in Penang will supply the rings to SNHU graduates who wish to purchase this item. It is priced at RM185 (excluding delivery charges), and the ring is as shown below:


Thanks to Edric Ho for introducing the Penang jeweler to us. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of a class ring, please know that a class ring (also known as a graduate, senior ring, or grad ring) is a ring worn by students and alumni in the USA to commemorate their graduation, generally for a high school, college, or university. Therefore, this ring should be special to SNHU students because it is an SNHU ring and it is supposed to give them a sense of belonging as well as feelings of pride in being a member of the SNHU fraternity. To order, contact me or the ADP Program Coordinators. For those graduating this October 31 – flash it as a symbol of your accomplishment, flaunt it as a badge of your success!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Humor Challenge

When I was at the MIMPJ Toastmasters Club meeting the other week, I met DTM Ratnam, and he subsequently invited me to attend his own club meeting. This evening, I finally attended the Extol Toastmasters Club's regular meeting in SS19, Subang Jaya, and this is the second time, in fact, that I am at other Toastmasters meetings (not including our own meetings at HICT) that I did not have a speaking role. Instead, I was invited to take on the job of a General Evaluator for today’s meeting. It was a new experience for me – and I had to faithfully observe the protocols. I believe I acquitted myself very well – with some timely guidance from DTMs Ratnam, Patricia and Ngan Eng. And what impresses me about this Club is that their members are very genial and genuine, affable and amiable – it makes me feel really nice and warm inside.

It is really interesting to discover that different Toastmasters Clubs are different in the way they organize themselves, and what’s more, the meetings themselves present me with very different impressions every time. To be sure there are many similarities in the conduct of these meetings, yet there are also contrasts – still, all of these meetings do spark positive passions about Toastmastering in me. Like, wow!

Talking about Toastmastering, Mathew informed me today that he and I may be called upon to take part in a Humor-speaking competition. I looked at him pensively for just a second, and then let my jaws drop open to underscore how plain foolish I thought this whole idea was. I didn’t think he got the message because he repeated the suggestion. Believe me, it is not easy to speak humorously and besides, I don’t think I am funny enough. But the idea had already lodged in my mind, beckoning and challenging me…

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

District 9

I had to go see the movie “District 9”. For one, Peter Jackson (of LOTR fame) produced it. Secondly, the trailer was riveting (and which I am reproducing below). Thirdly, all the movie reviews that I have read gave their stellar approval. Yet, many of my students who saw the movie didn’t go ga-ga over it; one even told me that she was filled with revulsion. So I had to go see for myself. And I did so yesterday – after all, it was a public holiday. My verdict? It’s a movie not unlike a sandwich that has multi-layers of assorted fillings. It’s a story about stranded aliens (who are predisposed to cat food), inter-species transformation (a human turning into a “prawn”, the derogatory term for the alien species), society’s prejudice and even inhumanity (giving us a sleazy peek into the real world; a form of social commentary, if you will), and generously spread with lots of exploding bodies, and blood and gore (that earned the movie an SG18 rating). Malaysian Today correctly called it “District Gore” (August 20-26, 2009, p 14).

It is definitely not popcorn fare. The story line is interesting and yes, even gripping; the pacing is excellent – I don’t remember feeling bored for one second; the entertainment value is also excellent – it is a movie that is smart, fun, and provocative. And Sharlto Copley's superlative performance as the luckless Wikus (the human ‘prawn’) has a lot going for it. The fact that his character is so offbeat and at the same time, steady and tenacious adds to the pathos, and gives the movie that crunchy crispness, that raw edge. Yes, I did enjoy the movie very much. Go watch it.

Nurul Izzah Anwar

The Malaysian Insider featured a series of well-written articles (both English and Malay) in conjunction with Merdeka yesterday. One of the authors is Nurul Izzah Anwar who inscribed that “The Malays and as a matter-of-fact, all Malaysians need to change as well if we want to remain relevant in this world. We need to step away from our obsession with all things racial and realize that the project of nation-building is not a zero-sum game. Malaysia can never succeed until and unless its entire people feel like they are truly a part of it”.

And she prompted: “…calling for our nascent nationhood to be allowed to achieve its full potential than for us to remain stuck in our ethnic and mental ghettos. …The wave of reactionary politics that is engulfing us can only be turned back if progressive Malaysians stand firm against their threats and untruths”.

And she concluded: “The Malaysia of tomorrow cannot be one in which we are blinded by fear and negativity. The first step in imagining and defining a better future for all of us is to open our eyes and speak out…” (Webpage
http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/36435-malays-speaking-without-fear-, accessed August 31, 2009).

An excellent piece of writing from the MP of Lembah Pantai, reminding us of the challenges we face today. What she is saying is very correct, very pertinent, and very relevant.