Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Miaow-miaow

This evening, I braved the unbroken traffic to attend the Advanced Communicators Meeting, or ACM # 45, for short. This was my first time here. I have been told that this meeting is open only to Toastmasters who have completed at least 10 speeches. What is different is that each speaker will face a panel of three Toastmasters to evaluate him or her, in addition to the Open Evaluation session. Moreover, members of the audience could seek further clarification from this panel and the speaker could also present his or her rebuttal. Overall, I found this an interesting meeting. As I have said, I had mixed feelings – on the one hand, I had enjoyed the meeting, but on the other hand, I had to get used to a barrage of questions coming from the floor on my "evaluation", and this can be a needling experience.

1Q 2010 Progress Report: 2010 Resolution List

1. Start writing my Marketing textbook (Still to get started)
2. Start my second Masters (Still to get started)
3. Write my Ph D proposal and submit for approval (Still to get started although the University has been identified)
4. Write two short stories and get them published (To begin in May)
5. Complete 10 ACG-qualifying speeches and achieve Toastmasters’ ACG and ALB recognitions (To begin in April)
6. Teach 1000 hours for period October 2009-September 2010 (As at March 31, I have completed 355 hrs of teaching, i.e. 35.5%)
7. Direct 45,000 visits to my blog (As at March 31, As I See It recorded 24,880 hits, i.e. 55.3%)

The British government announced Monday that party drug mephedrone will be banned in the U.K. within a month, after a spate of deaths were linked to “miaow-miaow” (as it is popularly known here). Home Secretary Alan Johnson said mephedrone – currently freely available to buy on the Internet and in shops selling legal highs – would join amphetamines and cannabis as an outlawed class B drug, the second most dangerous kind.

This is not to be confused with the local version of Miaow-miaow, which is legally sold in Malaysia and does not contain banned substances! What's more, it is safe to eat even if it may be addictive! I am referring to Miaow Miaow Food Products Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian company that produces leisure food for snack lovers under the Miaow Miaow brand name. I sure hope this company doesn't plan to export their products to the UK anytime soon – unless they opt for another brand name that will not make them come under instant suspicion!

Najib’s Bold? New? Way

Today, we retrieved RM24 from the HELP for Haiti Fund collection box. The grand total is now RM7,995, and inching closer to the RM8k mark.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Najib Razak unveiled the New Economic Model (NEM) – effectively replacing the much-maligned New Economic Policy (NEP), introduced by his late father, Abdul Razak Hussein, Malaysia’s second PM. The NEM is a national template that embodies broad economic reforms to transform the country into a high-income nation that is both sustainable and inclusive by 2020. And Najib even knew how to sing the right melody: “While the NEP’s original policies are still relevant, it is time to review its implementation. We will chase the same goals but transform the way we do things” (The Sun, March 31, 2010, p 1). However he said it, the NEP was an elaborate failure because of poor implementation, and this is to put it very mildly.

Having said that, the NEM as I understand it, is like a celebrated pop song (think of any of the songs by Beyonce or Lady Gaga or Shakira) that will propel itself straight to the top of the music charts. It is a catchy tune, bursting with ear-pleasing rhythms that will make us shake our booty but at the same time, it is a music piece that is lightweight and some would say, even hackneyed. So, the NEM lacks substance, although it scores high on intentions. I arrived at this conclusion based on what I have been reading in all the news reports. Yet, it is worth mentioning here that the NEM is a 160-page report that is impregnated with a 31-page Executive Summary! (p8). Surely, it must contain a lot of showy platitudes for it to sound so pretentiously pompous! As a Marketing person, it’s called the packaging!
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Senior DAP lawmaker, Lim Kit Siang highlighted the problem faced by Najib’s NEM as being the same faced by his 1 Malaysia concept – whether he is prepared to walk the talk (Webpage http://themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/opinion/breaking-views/58048-long-shadow-of-perkasa-over-najibs-nem--lim-kit-siang).

I guess, we have no choice but to be patient and wait for its follow-up, the Economic Transformation Program roadmap that will furnish us with the detailed plans needed to achieve the objectives laid out in the ambitious NEM. As The Sun says, it is a “quantum leap in 10 years” (p 8), the question that will surely be asked is “Can we do it?” Until we examine the said roadmap – the verdict’s still out! Give Najib a chance lah

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Great Malaysian Brain Drain

The HELP for Haiti Fund collected a meager RM8 to bring our todate total to RM7,971.

I read with interest this news report in today’s Star (Webpage http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/3/30/neweconomicmodel/20100330150821&sec=neweconomicmodel) that the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) is claiming that Malaysia is losing its skilled talent which it needs to drive future growth as many are leaving to seek better opportunities elsewhere. Quoting an estimate by the Ministry of Human Resources, the NEAC says in 2008 some 350,000 Malaysians were working abroad, over half of which had tertiary education.

"We are not developing talent and what we have is leaving," the NEAC warns.

I don’t think I am wrong to say that more and more Malaysians are packing their bags to leave. I am not sure if any study has been done to investigate this but many have speculated that the exodus is brought about by disillusionment: rising crime, crippling cronyism, a tainted judiciary, human rights abuses, an antiquated education system, stagnating salaries and other concerns. Whether these are valid reasons, the fact remains that the brain drain saps the country of much-needed talent.

The saddest thing is that our country seems indifferent to this situation.

Yet we should also take note that Singaporeans are leaving home for a whole load of other reasons – very dissimilar to ours.

I put to you that it’s not only Malaysians and Singaporeans – but other nationalities too. "Brain drain" has emerged as a compelling policy challenge for developing countries undergoing globalization. This "human capital flight" describes the emigration of educated and highly skilled talents. The lure of wealth and availability of opportunity elsewhere leaves labor-exporting economies in a self-reinforcing bind: How can a developing country hope to fast-forward when the best and brightest routinely set out in search of greener pastures?

Do You Know You Stink?


To view the full ad, check out http://community.livejournal.com/vintage_ads/1816403.html

This informative deodorant ad from way back in 1935 tells you how to know whether you stink or not! This boingboing.net posting on Sunday noted the gleeful touting of technology to "gently close the pores" and the need to define the term "deodorant". I posted this piece because I thought it is relevant even now...especially in a hot and humid climate like Malaysia. Do you also know that there are men who just love to sniff at women's armpits because they love that "stinky-sweet" bouquet?! Okay, there are those who will find this distasteful and there are those who will find this secretly pleasurable! I say, to each his own!


In an exciting SPL match, Celtic scored an emphatic 3-1 win over Kilmarnock. Adventurous Killie survived an early battering until Robbie Keane brilliantly weaved his way into the penalty box to chip the goalkeeper after 37 minutes. And then Keane again blasted in a 62nd-minute second and Scott Brown slotted a third goal four minutes later for rampant Celtic. Kilmarnock woke up too late when Craig Bryson's deflected cross deceived Artur Boruc for a 73rd-minute reply. This victory simply re-established a 10-point gap at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Earth Hour 2010

Two of my SNHU students, Suak Ying and Kian Soon this morning handed RM30 to the HELP for Haiti Fund. Thank you for this meaningful donation – it makes me feel proud to have caring students like you! This is part of the RM42 we collected today, bringing the total to RM7,963.

I attended the KL Advanced Toastmasters Club meeting, and this time, I took on the role of an Evaluator for Sandra. And I won the Best Evaluator award in the process, though admittedly, I didn’t perform as well as I normally would. Interestingly, this time, Lucky introduced the evaluation for the prepared speech to come immediately after – thereby, putting all Evaluators on their toes. I suppose, this is good practice for the Evaluation contest when it comes later in the year.
BEFORE & AFTER. Credit image: http://anythingbeautiful.blogspot.com/2010/03/earth-hour-in-kuala-lumpur.html

Yahoo! News headlined “World’s iconic sites go dark to fight global warming”. From New York City skyscrapers the Empire State and the Chrysler Building, along with landmarks from the Eiffel Tower and Sydney Harbor Bridge to the Petronas Twin Towers and Burj Khalifa went dark for an hour Saturday (08:30 PM local time) to raise awareness over the fight against climate change.

Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley was quoted: "By participating in the symbolic event of Earth Hour, we show that, together, we can collectively make a difference to protect and preserve the environment".

For those who are in the dark about Earth Hour – it actually started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries participating. In March 2009, over 4,000 cities in 88 countries officially "switched off" to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world's largest global climate change initiative. This year, some 4,000 cities in more than 120 countries supposedly participated.

This worldwide brownout called Earth Hour is a great initiative – but it is after all, a symbolic gesture at best. If we are indeed serious about the impact of climate change, then we should forget about promoting it as a once-a-year occasion. We could instead consider organizing Earth Hour on a monthly basis to demonstrate our seriousness to this worsening question of climate change. Truth be told, the ordinary citizen wasn’t that bothered about this event. Obviously, the will to turn out the lights is not something most people would do willingly, assuming they understand why they should do it in the first place.

And so Earth Hour wasn’t a success at all if you consider that Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) recorded only an insignificant drop in demand during Earth Hour Saturday night, with a load reduction of 203 megawatt (MW), as compared to 550MW registered during the same energy conservation campaign last year (Webpage http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsindex.php?id=486025, posted March 28, 2010).

But it’s not just Malaysia – I stumbled across this illuminating Canadian news report from Metro Vancouver (Webpage http://www.metronews.ca/vancouver/local/article/489818--earth-hour-results-not-as-bright-as-in-previous-years, posted today) that British Columbians turned off the equivalent of 1.4-million lights during Earth Hour – a 1.04 per cent reduction in the province’s electricity load, which was less than it was in the two previous years. In 2009, electricity consumption went down by 1.1 per cent, and in 2008 it went down by two per cent, according to B.C. Hydro.

I don’t think it is any different elsewhere – so while there is some publicity about Earth Hour, we still have a lot to do to convince people to switch off lights if only for 60 minutes! It is an inconvenience to most of us, if we are to be honest about this!

Therefore, it is time to engage and energize the masses. What is needed is a people-driven movement that can mobilize everybody – somehow, WWF, as the organizer, is not the right vehicle to undertake this task. I mean, WWF is supposed to focus on environmental protection and nature conservation work, and even this endeavor is not exactly satiated with success, given the many challenges they face in this country and elsewhere. So taking on responsibility for Earth Hour is not a smart move. To show how much we care about our living planet is fine, but really, what are we going to do about it, individually and collectively? If many of us were not willing to switch off the lights for an hour, we didn’t really care enough, right? Our position is always to let others do it! At best, we are spectators.


In this vital EPL match for Liverpool, the Reds won handsomely against Sunderland with a convincing 3-0 score. The tone was set in the game's third minute with a moment of genius from Torres, who took down Pepe Reina's punt on the left wing, cut past Michael Turner and, inches inside the area, hit a shot which seemed to be sailing over but dipped late into the top right corner. And Darren Bent's aimless headed clearance from Gerrard's 32nd-minute corner sent it straight to Johnson, whose 20-yard shot from his left foot deflected in off Turner's knee and beyond the Black Cats’ keeper’s reach.Torres's second goal was another piece of seemingly effortless skill in which he flicked up a ball that Johnson had slid into his path and hooked it in over the despairing tackle of Turner (60). But is it already too late for the Reds to play catch-up?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Premier Meeting

Somebody captured me on camera on Thursday – in a rare and quiet moment – I was trying to read my speech. It was imperative that I tried to get some practice because I had the Area W1 International Speech Contest on the same evening. Needless to say, these moments were few and far in between.

On Saturday morning (i.e. yesterday), I went to Bankers Club at Wisma Amoda in Jalan Imbi, KL to attend the Premier Advanced Toastmasters Club meeting as the General Evaluator. An interesting experience altogether because this was a very different club meeting. E.g. Instead of a Table Topics session, they have the “Go with the Flow” session which is more a micro-debate session. Of course I enjoyed myself – well, I will always enjoy wherever and whenever I go to these meetings because to me, Toastmastering is fun! Moreover, it was well-attended, which was something great to behold. I guess, about the only qualm, I may have – although I hasten to add that one cannot judge from just one meeting – the quality of the speeches were just so-so. But then again, I have heard so much about this club that my own expectations may have been unrealistically lofty. But I got to listen to two speakers – Lee Sai Keong “From Zero to Hero” and Marcus Chee “Color of Rights” – who were practicing their respective Division-level International Speech Contests though – and they gave me a good idea of other Toastmasters’ winning speeches.

In a crucial EPL game, Birmingham substitute Kevin Phillips scored a stoppage-time equalizer as Arsenal's title challenge was blown off course in a bruising encounter. They collected a mere point in a match that they should have won in the first place!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Last Dash

After we have tallied all the cash from Thursday, the grand total of cash received for the HELP for Haiti Fund is now RM7,921. This includes the RM1,656 contribution from HUC's Rotaract Club. Congratulations to everybody for a great job done!

It’s not over yet – we will only stop this donation drive on April 01, 2010. So let’s make that last dash to raise as much money as we can. We would love to touch RM10k – but whether we can do this depends on every one of us!

As I have mentioned earlier – very many people played important roles to make this “HELP for Haiti” a success! If you are keen to know who are the people who actually started it all – then check out the photo below:
From left: Victor Reddy, Mathew Varughese, Victor Ong, Arun Kannan, Edrickson Duane Sadom & Edric Ho

More Photos








Photos from Thursday's Benefit Concert