Monday, October 31, 2011

Qantas Lock-out



Australian Financial Review reports after lengthy negotiations with three unions that produced no results, chief executive Alan Joyce was faced with three choices: meet union demands; continue operating in the same way, with frequent strikes and uncertainty; or fight back.

He chose to fight back.

And so Australian flag carrier Qantas on Saturday took the unprecedented step of grounding all aircraft amid an industrial dispute. The carrier, which has been walloped by a rolling strike action, said employees would be locked out from Monday evening and flights grounded from 0600 GMT (2:00 PM Malaysian time) Saturday.

Months of strikes by baggage handlers, engineers and pilots were costing the company A$15 million ($16 million) per week, and the total financial impact already hitting at least A$68 million. Some 70,000 passengers had been affected ahead of the announcement and more than 600 flights cancelled. The embattled company's shock decision to ground all aircraft will affect 108 planes at 22 airports.

"I'm actually taking the bold decision, an unbelievable decision, a very hard decision, to ground this airline" Joyce had said. But before we start to shoot at Joyce, let us at least hear his explanations.

The cost of us agreeing to (union) demands is the future of Qantas," Joyce said, accusing unions of seeking to straitjacket the company through their demands.

Joyce also told shareholders at Friday’s annual general meeting in Sydney, “They want to tell us what we can and can’t do in our company,” and added, “(And) they want to be paid to do work that no longer exists.”

But unions claimed that the airline was just seeking to save money by sending jobs overseas – a key plank of the strategy to boost falling international revenues is for Qantas to refocus on Asia. The unions are seeking guarantees on wages and job security. And representatives of pilots, engineers and ground staff are also outraged by Qantas's decision to boost Joyce's pay package by 71 percent, from A$2.9 million in 2009/10 to A$5 million ($5.2 million) in 2010/11, just as he disclosed his intention to axe 1,000 Qantas jobs. Even accounting for that, the airline still posted a net profit of A$250 million in the last financial year.

I don’t have full clarity on the issues that caused this fractious quarrel – except for the information detailed above. But as far as I am concerned, Joyce’s action was really extreme and even unwarranted. Furthermore, by making that lock-out decision, he has surrendered all moral authority.

I have troubling questions. Can Joyce make the unilateral decision to shut down Qantas? Did the Qantas board agree? Was Transport Minister Anthony Albanese informed? Surely there were other options to consider? What was Joyce’s real motive behind this decision? Was he trying to force the government’s hand to clip the unions’ wings permanently? Can the Qantas management's greed be satiated? And whatever happened to their passengers’ interests?

Anyway, after the government made an emergency application, independent arbitrator, Fair Work Australia intervened – ruling in the early hours of this morning to terminate industrial action by both the airline and the three unions. This means the Qantas fleet could be returning to the skies from this afternoon - hopefully. Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the parties now have 21 days to resolve the dispute. And if they are unable to do so, then Fair Work Australia would impose a solution on them at the end of this 21-day period.

Qantas is a global brand with a carefully cultivated reputation for reliability and safety over the past 90 years but when Joyce abandoned his passengers with impolite haste and without the decency of a prior notice, he must take the blame as the transgressor who single-handedly thrashed the Qantas brand – don't fault the unions! And the Qantas reputation quickly went down the drain! The Qantas management are being selfish – they’re not wanting just to survive in a globalized world; they want to make as much money as they can for their shareholders, come what may! Doesn’t Joyce personify the 1 percent that the OWS is up in arms against? Isn't the 99 percent that will end up paying the price for his avaricious business direction that wants profit at any cost with scant regard for ordinary workers? It is the vile specter of evil capitalism rearing its ugly head.

Tourism chiefs said Qantas’s status as Australia’s flag carrier and arguably their best known global brand meant the Joyce decision had implications that went far beyond the company. Tourism Accommodation Australia managing director Rodger Powell said the country’s “Brand Australia” was also in jeopardy, threatening a tourism industry worth A$34 billion a year.

Thanks, Joyce!

Origins of Halloween

Most people associate Halloween as being American but really, it originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in), when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming spirits. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 01 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by fun activities such as trick-or-treating, costumed parties and sweet treats.

Every October, carved pumpkins peer out from porches and doorsteps in the US and some parts of the world. Gourd-like orange fruits inscribed with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign of the Halloween season. The practice of decorating “jack-o’-lanterns” – the name comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack (read it at webpage http://www.history.com/topics/jack-olantern-history) – originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes served as an early canvas. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the pumpkin, and it became an integral part of Halloween festivities.

And Halloween has invaded other countries – not just Malaysia but elsewhere. In Hungary, Halloween began in 2009 when the locals displayed their handmade pumpkin lanterns in Hosok tere (Heroes Square). Check out the official website of the Budapest Halloween Lantern Festival: HalloweenFesztival.hu or TokLampasFesztival.husee these photos of the lit-up pumpkins during the Pumpkin Lantern Festival in Heroes Square, Budapest on October 29, 2011:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fish & Chip Shops

UK’s The Independent always produces “The 50 best” lists, whether delicatessens, bars, B&Bs and others but it is “The best 50 fish and chip shops” that caught my eye. Okay, it is slightly over nine months later since this listing appeared (i.e. January 15, 2011) but it’s better late than never for those of you heading to the UK and if you are really looking for good English fish and chips. I am only showing the Top 12 but those looking for the full list, do check out webpage http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/the-50-best-fish-and-chip-shops-2184928.html.

The panel that came up with this list are Karen Barnes, editor of 'delicious' magazine (www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk); Andy Gray, from Seafish (seafish.org), who organizes the National Fish & Chip Awards (www.fishandchipawards.com); Elaine Campbell, director of fundraising for the Fishermen's Mission, a charity that supports fishermen and their families (www.fishermensmission.org.uk); Emily Howgate (of SeaWeb - Seafood Choices) who works on Good Catch, a joint project that helps restaurants and caterers to improve seafood sustainability (www.goodcatch.org.uk); and Craig Butcher, editor of MSN food and drink (www.food.uk.msn.com).

1. Scooby Snax

Owned by former RAF man, John McNeill, 'Scooby Snax prides itself on offering healthy eating options for its customers and has recently added a mobile unit to take its award-winning fish and chips on the road', says Andy. 'John is also the organiser of Brightlingsea's biggest street party.'

Where 3 Church Road, Brightlingsea, Essex, CO7 0JE (01206 306542; www.scoobysfishandchips.co.uk)

2.Fish House

A popular chippy in Victoria Park 'village', the menu features a variety of fishy options that seem to be chosen to benefit customers taste buds as well as healthful seas. The fairly priced portions are satisfying and the batter and chips suitably crispy.

Where 126-128 Lauriston Road, London, E9 7LH (020-8533 3327; www.fishouse.co.uk)

3.Fishworks

'Escape the hubbub of Oxford Street for the more peaceful streets of Marylebone,' advises Elaine. On the high street, you'll find her favourite branch of Fishworks. 'It's always busy at lunchtime so go early, or book a table. Fish and chips here, and a glass of champagne, will revive flagging spirits.'

Where 89 Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 4QW (020-7935 9796; www.fishworks.co.uk)

4.Golden Hind

'The pescetarian Golden Hind is pretty basic inside but the art deco fryer at the back would stand out no matter how grand the surrounds,' says Craig. 'It's been around a long time and these days has a welcome Greek influence from the current owners. They've recently expanded into the former crêperie next door so it's (marginally) easier to get a table these days. Fare remains the same - excellent.'

Where 73 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U2PN (020-7486 3644)

5. Wigmore Fish Restaurant

'The Wigmore Fish Restaurant uses the best produce,' says Andy. 'Chips are made from quality potatoes carefully sourced from a number of leading British farmers and the fish is succulent and cooked to perfection. A much-loved chippy in the local community, the Wigmore boasts the latest in frying equipment to ensure that customers leave fully satisfied.'

Where Unit 6, Wigmore Park Centre, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU2 9XG (0871 960 9235)

6.Toff's

'Totally the best and always winning awards,' says Karen of this north London favourite. 'There's always a queue on a Friday night,' and no wonder. The menu is long and dependable with all the classics available as well as more unexpected choices (they'll do grilled fish to order).

Where 38 Muswell Hill Broadway, London, N10 3RT (020-8883 8656; www.toffsfish.co.uk)

7.Bentley's Oyster Bar & Grill

'Richard Corrigan's place is no 'chippie',' states Craig. 'It's a temple to great seafood and exemplary wines. Prices are high, but then so is the quality of the fish. The house tartare sauce alone makes it worth a visit. Throw in a nice Chablis and you've got it made. It's high-end rather than seaside, but I think there's room for all points on the scale.'

Where 11-15 Swallow Street, London, W1B 4DG (020-7734 4756; www.bentleys.org)

8.Olleys

Karen describes this as a 'brilliant local fish and chip shop,' serving 'the crispest batter and best quality, moist fish. Needless to say, there are often big queues.'

Where 65-67 Norwood Road, Herne Hill, London, SE24 9AA (020-8671 8259; www.olleys.info)

9.Harbour Lights

'Lauded for their staff, the Harbour Lights team are helpful and welcoming - kids are especially well looked after,' sums up Emily. 'There's a big commitment to sustainability, with MSC-certified hake and pollack featuring alongside the more familiar fish options, and local Cornish potatoes used for the chips.'

Where Arwenack Street, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 3LH (01326 316934; www.harbourlights.co.uk)

10. Crab House Café

'The place is so effortlessly laid back that I find myself relaxing instantly,' says Craig. 'A brilliantly basic beach hut overlooking Chesil Beach, near Weymouth, the crab is fantastic, but their entire menu is bursting with fresh herbs, inventiveness and depth of flavours. Best of all, the menu changes constantly so there's always something to tempt. It's also one of the few places that work well day and night - it's got a lively family atmosphere during the day and a homely, candlelit feel in the evenings.'

Where Ferrymans Way, Portland Road, Wyke Regis, Dorset, DT4 9YU (01305 788867; www.crabhousecafe.co.uk)

11.Daniel's Fish & Chips

'Daniel's is committed to selling food of the highest quality; the owner is passionate about fish,' explains Elaine. 'He will only source from sustainable stocks, and is supporting research into new fishing technology to help ensure the future health of the fishing industry.Daniel is equally passionate about the potatoes his company uses - preferably Maris Piper.'

Where Several branches including 159 Abbotsbury Road, Weymouth, Dorset, DT3 0JX (01305 787720; www.danielsfishandchips.co.uk)

12.Hix Oyster and Fish House

'Definitely more than just an upscale chippie, Mark Hix's timber-framed restaurant has fantastic views over Bridport harbour in Dorset,' says Craig. 'The fish and chips are excellent (you can treat yourself with oysters to start) and wash it down with Hix's own oyster ale, from local brewers Palmer's.'

Where Cobb Road, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3JP (01297 446910; www.hixoysterandfishhouse.co.uk)

Discharge Not Amounting to Acquittal

Finally, on October 28, Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar and five other Parti Sosialis Malaysia members were given a discharge not amounting to acquittal for allegedly owning subversive papers and gathering illegally ahead of the Bersih rally that took place on July 09.

Earlier on September 19, police had dropped all charges against 30 PSM activists arrested for waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, including the six who were also detained under the Emergency Ordinance (EO).

Malaysians already know that they shouldn't be charged in the first place. This is a travesty of justice! The PSM 6 deserve nothing less than an acquittal and an apology and compensation from the wayward Government. But I tell you this: Don't expect anything that smacks of remorseful contrition from those in power.

That is why Malaysians should never ever forget what happened to the PSM members! And we should not forgive either because the brutish government and their callous sycophants have trampled on justice in order to victimize decent people whose only crime was to express their rights as citizens!


Liverpool boosted their push for a top-four place after first-half goals from Charlie Adam and Andy Carroll secured a 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion. Adam put the Reds ahead from the penalty spot in the ninth minute after Luis Suarez was fouled by Jerome Thomas. And then Suarez sent strike partner Carroll through one-on-one with the goalkeeper in stoppage time at the end of the first half and the England international slotted superbly beyond the advancing Ben Foster with the outside of his outstretched left boot for his second league goal of the season.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tourists Fleeing Bangkok



Last evening, I attended the third session of the Taman Indrahana Speechcraft program for new members, and I was tasked to evaluate Michael Kum’s CC speech # 6. He is a good narrator alright and I always enjoy listening to his speeches – although like many other newbies, he gets distracted from the speech objectives. It is important to read the Competent Communication manual from cover to cover because it is designed to give new members a strong start in developing a core set of skills to prepare them for public speaking.

I am not sure if I have said it before but this club is really walking the talk to support members. Even a heavy evening downpour couldn’t derail the meeting because anticipation hung like heavy curtain drapes for members wanting to learn to speak well.

And this morning, I presented myself at the MIM Toastmasters of Kuala Lumpur meeting and again, I took up the role of an evaluator – this time for Alex Chong who delivered his CC speech # 3. A confident speaker but again, he should pay particular attention to the speech objectives. I was also a silent evaluator for Joanna Tan who did CC speech # 4. Same issue like the others whom I have highlighted above. She is also a good speaker and when she is up at the front, she commands attention. Sadly, the standard of English at this meeting was impoverished – Richard Hoy as the Grammarian could have cracked the whip; otherwise how would members learn? I would give this meeting a 5 out of a 10.

Today’s The Star reported that Penang has seen an increase in tourists following the severe floods in the Thai capital (p 04). Bangkok’s misfortune benefits nearby Penang!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bangkok Floods


Thais in the northern districts of Bangkok – e.g. Don Muang, Bang Phlad and Thawi Wattana, some of which are reportedly now 90% submerged by rising waters – are scrambling to leave the capital. Areas in proximity to the swollen Chao Phraya river are expected to face the worst flooding as the run-off from torrential rains in the north surges through the city. Bangkok's Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra declared: “This is the first time I am using the term 'evacuation', the first time I'm really asking you to leave".

Already, more than 360 people have died in Thailand's worst flooding in decades. The floods have been triggered by heavy monsoon rains that began in July. More than one third of the country's provinces were inundated.

The crisis is a test for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who took office in August 2011 and has previously been criticized for failing to take the flood threat seriously enough.

"It's a crisis, because if we try to resist this massive amount of floodwater, a force of nature, we won't win," Yingluck said.

Already, Thai authorities have declared a five-day holiday, to run from Thursday through to Monday, in Bangkok and in 20 provinces affected by the flooding to allow residents to relocate.

DiGi and Play Safe

Yesterday was the last day for the MKT1014 presentations and one Tutorial 3 group (i.e. Lee Juhn Xiarn, Lim Wan Yuen & Lim Su Hoay) did DiGi.



Of course it would not be complete without showing video clips of DiGi’s memorable commercials – one of which is shown below:


And another presentation from another group (i.e. Ng Shi Min, Lim Ru Yuan & Lee Jing Yee) did ‘Play Safe’ – their first PowerPoint slide even showed me in my Supergirl costume!


In case you didn’t know, ‘Play Safe’ is a brand of condoms from Takaso Rubber Products.

I was in KL for the Metro Toastmasters meeting last evening and I took up the role of timekeeper. Eight members and nine guests (including the General Evaluator, i.e. Cyril Jonas and I) ensured this was a vibrant meeting and I was glad I came because I personally had a good time. But it is vexing to note that those members who attended were all “senior” members. Anyway, I would give this meeting a score of 6.5 out of a 10.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Condoms

In 2006, the Chinese bought about two billion condoms, the highest in the world after the UK, the US and Japan. In fact after 2006, condom sales have surged by 15 percent every year – at least according to this news report on webpage http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/south-asia/condom-use-in-china-ballooning_100283070.html, published December 02, 2009. I have no doubt that condom sales are continuing to expand in China – but sometimes, I wonder if they are used for the right purpose. Check out these photos and you will know what I mean!


In the Carling Cup fourth round, it was Stoke who went ahead when Kenwyne Jones headed a low cross from Jon Walters into the corner (44). But Liverpool confidently hit back when Luis Suarez levelled with an exquisite curling shot past Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen (54). And then one more for Liverpool when Jordan Henderson volleyed a cross to the far post where Suarez headed home (85). The Reds reached the last eight for the first time in four seasons with this 2-1 win.

A-G's Good Books

The Penang state government continues to be in the good books of the Auditor General, who commended their improved financial position in 2010 compared to 2009. According to the latest AG report, Penang's consolidated revenue grew by 2.7 percent, from RM1,101.89 million for 2009 to RM1,131.17 million in 2010. The consolidated cash reserve rose by 6.2 percent to RM572.49 million, up from RM538.95 million in 2009. Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and the PR coalition can be rightfully proud of themselves for a job well done!

And the PR-managed Selangor state government received a ‘satisfactory’ rating from the AG for their financial position ending 2010. The state’s consolidated revenue increased by RM266.91 million or 20.2 percent, from RM1,319.97 million in 2009 to RM1,586.88 million in 2010. This is despite it registering a 10.9 percent or RM192.36 million drop to RM1,571.50 million in state revenue last year (RM1,763.86 million in 2009).

Even Kelantan and Kedah were also graded 'satisfactory'. This means that all these states are under the safe hands of CAT-abiding PR shepherds. [CAT refers to the DAP's governing philosophy, meaning Competency, Accountability and Transparency].

Penangites and others from the three states have discovered their good fortune because they gave the reins of power to the anti-BN coalition. If Penang and the other three can be so successful, why don’t Malaysians elsewhere give them a chance too? I’m referring to Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Perak. When the time comes, let’s insist on change. It's about time.

Ambiga (left) speaks during a public lecture at University of Melbourne, October 25, 2011. Photo by KC Boey.

Bersih 2.0’s Ambiga Sreenevasan is in Australia – she kicked off a speaking tour of four of the most renowned law schools in Australia. There, she lambasted Putrajaya of stalling on electoral reform ahead of key national polls likely to be called by early next year.

It is good that she is building awareness amongst Malaysians in Australia on the importance of electoral reform but shouldn’t she also focus on speaking to Malaysians in Malaysia so that they in turn can put more pressure on the Najib government? I am referring to Malaysians in the towns and rural heartlands of the country. Please do not be elitist – do not underestimate these Malaysians by assuming that they are so readily seduced and/or easily hoodwinked by the cunning and crafty Najib! I am sure they care as much about their country as those in the cities. We are all Malaysians, aren’t we? Ambiga, these Malaysians are counting on you too!

And if the government is still dragging their feet, then I say, bring on Bersih 3.0!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Auditor General's Report 2010

I climbed the stairs to the MCA Petaling Jaya Selatan office which served as the venue for the Money Mastery Toastmasters meeting last evening. I was invited to grace the meeting as the General Evaluator and I skipped my own Taman Indrahana Toastmasters meeting to be there. I certainly enjoyed the meeting because there was good company, good food and good speeches and evaluations. Even better was that the meeting started on time – it seems that Francis Ng had warned his members that I am particular about punctuality and everybody actually came before the appointed time! Wow, I was impressed! I would give this meeting a score of 8 out of a 10.

I flinched in horror when I read that the Malaysian government had to use their cash pile to make up for the RM5.95 billion shortfall in their 2010 expenditure and outlay, according to the 2010 Auditor-General’s Report released Monday. This left the government with only RM21.57 billion cash as at December 31, 2010 (The Edge Financial Daily, October 25, 2011, p 1).

Not only that but Malaysia’s national debt resolutely rose to RM407.11 billion ($130 billion) last year and this represented 53.1 percent of GDP (The Malaysian Insider, published October 24, 2011). It's the second straight year that the national debt has exceeded 50 per cent.

Isn’t it time the government go on an austerity drive? Isn’t it time Najib stops spending our money any way he wants? Isn’t it time that Malaysians boot Najib out so that we can safeguard our future?

BMB2203 Entrepreneurship

Over the last two days (i.e. Monday and Tuesday), my BMB2203 students presented their business ideas – and unlike previous semesters where they are required to submit a full-blown business plan, this time around, they were tasked to focus on just ‘idea generation and opportunity recognition’. And these students came up with a plethora of ideas – unfortunately many of them are just the same versions of something already available somewhere else. These are:
  • Dog Theme Park
  • Taxi Concierge
  • Robo Hair
  • Pet Fitness Center
  • Drive-Thru Supermarket
  • Party Bus
  • Solar-powered Vending Machines
  • Phone-a-Cook
  • Treetop Hookah & Dining
  • Eco-dining
  • Hop-On Hop-Off Tour Bus