Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Make-believe Restaurant

This is a standout lesson for all of us because it teaches us not to believe everything that we read. 

In a time where online disinformation runs riot like weeds in a garden – this story serves as a timely reminder of how easy it is for tricksters and fraudsters to exploit online platforms to sometimes unthinkable outcomes. 

'The Shed at Dulwich' was London's top-rated restaurant and certainly, the hardest to get into. It beat out thousands of upscale restaurants to earn top ranking on TripAdvisor in one of the world’s food capitals and drawing a tidal wave of unimaginable interest. 

There was just one small problem: it didn’t exist. 

'The Shed at Dulwich' was a make-believe restaurant serving pretend food to imaginary customers for fake reviews. And of course, you can’t get a table! 

Actually, it was just a listing created in 2017 by freelance writer, Oobah Butler, who used his home – a shed in Dulwich in south London – as the inspiration for a high-concept new restaurant: “The Shed at Dulwich”. 

He even created a webpage with a menu inspired by moods – a concept “silly enough to infuriate your dad” he wrote – and illustrated it with photographs of artsy looking dishes made out of simple household products like bleach tablets and shaving cream. 

One photo even showed an egg on a plate balancing gracefully off his foot, which was cropped out of the frame. 

Image credit: 

And so, ‘The Shed at Dulwich’ became a massive Internet hit even though no one had ever eaten there. 

But it did open for one night in November 2017, serving ten guests including a couple from California, USA – “to re-create the same psychological space as TripAdvisor”, he told one interviewer. [Note: Butler and a friend prepared a really cheap meal made from instant food – and good reviews predictably accompanied this exclusive dining experience!] 

The restaurant started out in May 2017 as the 18,149th ranked restaurant in the city, i.e. dead last. By November 04 in the same year, it took the top slot and stayed there for four days. 

Super-amazing! This guy had turned an imaginary restaurant into London's most exclusive dining experience on Trip Advisor:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Two Logos: A Lesson in Contrast

Check out Toastmasters’ D51 Annual Conference 2018 logo! 

It is the brainchild of three persons actually. And I must say here that it really looks good. 

Compare this with the Visit Malaysia 2020 logo – and which continues to receive brickbats from Malaysians. 

Social media users had expressed disbelief that the logo was approved for Malaysia’s global tourism campaign, wondering if the photo shared online was fake or part of a joke. 

Others claimed the logo was designed using a simple programme like Microsoft Paint and had put Malaysian graphic designers to shame. 

One Muzakir Xynll tweeted: "The Visit Malaysia 2020 logo is actually really good if you take away the sunglasses. colours, composition, shapes, font, tagline, and logo".

Another, a Justin Khoo described the tagline as "Unappealing. Unwhelming. Unimpressive."

As expected, Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz defended the logo and insisted everybody praised it. He reiterated: “This logo is for foreign tourists. It is not for domestic use, I don’t care”. 

And to fend off his critics, he added: “We did not pay a single sen. The one who designed it is our own staff”. 

It is not about whether it is free or not, you nitwit – it’s about having a design that shows quality, that illustrates class. That Visit Malaysia 2020 logo, sir, looks amateurish. 

And why are the cartoon animals wearing shades? Are those put there to hide their embarrassment about the logo?

Still, everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion. Good or bad.

Learn how to say cheers in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai and many other languages. 

This video from the Condé Nast Traveller series will have you clinking glasses like a local in no time! Yam seng!

On Sunday morning, I had to prop my eyelids open in order to catch this FA Cup match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion. Three forty-five AM local time, to be precise.

Anyway, the Reds were beaten 2-3 by the latter in this fourth-round Saturday tie dominated by video assistant referee (VAR) decisions. 

A disappointing game for Liverpool. 

We are not good enough. And I should have just stayed in bed instead.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Najib Razak is Supremely Confident

The Malaysian Insight article published on January 27, 2018 rightaway caught my attention. It carried the news that Najib Razak was supremely confident he will win GE14 – and even better, win very comfortably. 

It seems that the above was robustly sensed during the Prime Minister’s trip to Singapore last week (January 15-16). 

This strong conviction was evident at official meetings and during discussions on the sidelines – and leading Singapore officials to note the cheery tenor and body language of the Malaysian leader. 

According to the said report, Najib's party believes it is a cinch to secure at least 140 parliamentary seats. 

One source in BN’s election machinery had informed The Malaysian Insight that they have within sight, one hundred seats in the Peninsula plus the 47 seats in Sabah and Sarawak they won in GE13 and which they will still keep in GE14. 

This means Najib is right to be upbeat. 

One internal study, in fact, put them as grabbing 170 of the 222 seats in contention. If they got their sums right, BN will have an excellent chance to regain two-thirds control of Parliament come GE14.

[Note: Of the grand total of 222 parliamentary constituencies – Peninsula has 165 seats, Sarawak 31 seats and Sabah 25 seats. In GE13, BN won 133 parliamentary seats – 86 in Peninsula, 25 in Sarawak and 22 in Sabah]. 

But on what basis is Najib and UMNO so sure they will triumph in GE14?

This same report nailed it down to these five factors: (1) An improving economy plus a strengthening ringgit, (2) a supposedly fractured Opposition, (3) the PAS decision to force three-cornered fights and ensuring opposition votes are split, (4) dissipating anger at 1MDB plus the fact that rural Malay voters cannot relate to it and therefore, they don't care, and (5) any unhappiness over the escalating cost of living will be negated by the goodies especially cash reimbursements, generously handed out between now and GE14 to targeted vote banks.  

I am so happy for Najib and BN. But let’s not jump the gun. Let's just wait and see.

After all, Najib was cocksure about winning it big in 2013! 

On Saturday, I was at the Taylor's University Toastmasters meeting and I delivered my CC#4 speech titled "What a Waste" and thus completing my Competent Communication manual for the forty-fifth time. 

Btw, I was voted Best Assignment Speaker. Nice to know I haven't lost my touch. Yet.

I hadn't expected to be speaking but Vice President Education Edward Ong made it possible. Thank you!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Abdul Hadi Awang Hallucinates Some More

Abdul Hadi Awang is at it again. Hallucinating. This time, it got worse.

The PAS president is intent on capturing Selangor for his party in GE14. 

Malaysian news wire Bernama reported the Marang MP as saying on January 21, 2018 that PAS are poised to take at least 42 out of the 56 state seats in Selangor, including two seats currently occupied by PKR, Bukit Antarabangsa held by Menteri Besar Azmin Ali and Kajang, held by Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. 

And as if that is not a big challenge already – he also announced that the Islamist party will form a new federal government with a simple majority when they win 112 parliamentary seats. Bernama had reported that PAS plan to contest in at least 130 seats. 

Now if you had read my post on January 14 titled “Abdul Hadi Awang Hallucinates” (Blogpage, he had at first envisioned playing a kingmaker role by winning 40 parliamentary seats. 

Just nine days later, the poor fool must have overdosed because he started talking about capturing Putrajaya – meaning, he is aiming to capture another 72 seats in addition to the 40. 

Long-time party observer Mohd Sayuti Omar told Berita Daily: “I am sure PAS can name 130 candidates because they will do whatever it takes to become a candidate. They are willing to even sell cows and goats to get the money they need to contest in the election”. 

[Note: In GE13, PAS ran in 73 federal seats and won 21 of them. But they have since lost eight of those seats – when 7 of their MPs resigned to form Parti Amanah Negara in 2015 and another MP Mahfuz Omar quit the party on December 31 last year to become an independent]. 

Sayuti was blunt when he spelled it out: “ win is totally impossible. I think to get 10 seats is still impossible. Maybe two to three in Kelantan, one or two in Terengganu and the same in Kedah”. 

He asserted: “What they need is a miracle. A divine intervention maybe that could help PAS win the election”. 

In other words, there’s no way PAS can win. Except maybe for some crumbs. Unless, of course, Allah wills it.

Sayuti even dismissed Hadi’s cocky assertion that PAS would govern Selangor. 

Not a chance, he vouched. In fact, he said PAS are in danger of even surrendering Kelantan to UMNO. 

PAS will lose huge. 

Anyway, we should leave Hadi alone. Leave him to his own devices. 

Kindly give him space to hallucinate more – to his heart’s desire. 

After all, he has already lost his marbles a long time ago.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

What's There to Celebrate on Australia Day?

The statue of Captain James Cook was splashed with paint. Credit: Leigh Henningham 

Graffiti was also scrawled on the base of the statue. Credit: Leigh Henningham 

A statue of British explorer Captain James Cook was vandalised in Melbourne, Australia. Simply put, it was a protest on the eve of Australia Day. 

The statue was found covered in paint on Thursday. Graffiti depicted an Aboriginal flag and the words: "We remember genocide". 

The Australian government described the vandalism as "disgraceful". 

"These vandals are trashing our national heritage and should be prosecuted", tweeted Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge. 

This was not the first time this happened. Last year, a statue of Cook in Sydney was also vandalised with messages including "change the date" and "no pride in genocide".

Australians should follow the examples in other parts of the world – and remove any reminders of a debauched and debased past. 

In April 2015, South Africa's University of Cape Town removed a statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes. 

And in 2017, in the US of A, many Confederate statues were taken down. 

One advocate was the mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, Mitch Landrieu who passionately defended this move: “They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for”. 

The Robert E Lee and Thomas J "Stonewall" Jackson monument base is viewed in Wyman Park Dell in Baltimore, Maryland, after being removed by the US city on August 16, 2017. Credit: AFP 

I see them as anachronisms from a past era. 

It’s a clear-cut argument really. 

Rhodes was a monument embodying the colonial dispossession and oppression of Africans (Read my post dated March 26, 2015 titled “Faecal Attack” @

The statues of the Confederacy period honor a regime that enslaved African-Americans. They promoted white supremacy. 

All these monuments shouldn’t be there in the first place. There is no reason to keep them anymore. They only bring back painful memories of the past. 

For Australia, it has to be more than just removing statues. It must also mean changing Australia Day to another date. 

Australia Day represents the anniversary of British settlement – where the local population was displaced, dispossessed and decimated. 

It doesn’t surprise me that not every Australian see Australia Day as a day of celebration. And this Australia Day issue has regularly seen annual debates over indigenous sensitivities.

Australia Day is supposed to celebrate what’s great about Australia – but does it? 

The fact that January 26 is Australia Day means it requires a denial of history. That day commemorates invasion, that sovereignty was never ceded to the trespassers. That it intentionally glosses over the genocide of the Aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islanders. It is really a day of mourning. 

Can the rest of the country come to terms with the fact that for the First Peoples of Australia – January 26 is a day of infamy, of ignominy, of shame? 

And when Australians can come to terms – only then can they truly celebrate Australia Day. 

Image credit: BuzzFeed News

Friday, January 26, 2018

Shithole Donald Trump

Donald Trump just loves to mock, taunt and ridicule. 

In a January 11, 2018 meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House  discussing whether they should accept more immigrants from some countries – the US President had referred to Haiti, El Salvador and Africa as "shithole countries". 

The invective was reported by The Washington Post and the world recoiled in consternation and horror at Trump’s reckless and undignified insult. 

The country’s diplomats around the world were summoned for formal reproach and the 55-nation African Union labelled Trump’s vilification as being “clearly racist”. 

But an independent marketing site that promotes tourism in Africa is using the above and turning it into a slick communication campaign. 

A Zambia tourism Facebook page featured an advert which read: “Visit s****hole Zambia. Where the only stars and stripes you’ll have to see are in the sky and on a zebra!” 

“Where beautiful vistas and breathtaking wildlife are our trump card! 

*DISCLAIMER: This post does not represent the opinions of the official Zambia Tourism Agency, but that of an independent marketing site”. 

[NOTE: The said post is not claiming to represent the opinions of the official Zambia Tourism Agency. And it has received thousands of likes and shares]. 

The Gondwana Collection, a private tourism operator in Namibia, too, got into the act and released a video on Facebook lampooning the alleged Trump derogation.

Their managing director, Gys Joubert, told the Associated Press: “You can fight the negative with the negative, or you can give some pushback with the tongue-in-cheek approach”.

But the biggest shithole is really Donald Trump!

On Thursday afternoon, I attended a Service Source Toastmasters meeting. I was there as the General Evaluator.

This was my maiden visit to this club and I am glad I went.

'Twas a really good meeting. Thank you, Charan Sidhu for the invite!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Moth Named N. donaldtrumpi

Donald Trump and 'Neopalpa donaldtrumpi'. Image credit: 

I know this news is one year old – but I guess, better late than never. 

'Neopalpa donaldtrumpi’ is a rare moth species of the genus Neopalpa – and described in the journal Zookeys (January 17, 2017 edition) by Canadian scientist Vazrick Nazari. He chose the name because the moth's crown of yellowish scales reminded him of the (then President-elect) Donald Trump. 

A type of twirler moth, it is a wee little insect found in southern California and Baja California in northwestern Mexico. 

It seems nature favors fancy golden hairdos as much as the man himself. Who could forget China's beloved Trump bird? Read my November 16, 2016 post titled “Donald Trump Hairdo” @

Nazari had also said he chose the name to bring awareness to conservation challenges. 

"I hope to bring some public attention to the importance of conservation of the fragile habitats in the United States that still contain undescribed and threatened species, and generate interest in the importance of alpha-taxonomy in better understanding the neglected micro-fauna component of the North American biodiversity", he said. 

It's a mission Nazari hoped Trump's administration will appreciate. For the moth’s sake, I really hope so!

Yesterday, on my way to a morning business appointment – I came across an accident along Jalan Putra. 

I realize that even in a traffic-congested city like Kuala Lumpur – we are still bedevilled with road accidents – and I don’t think I am wrong to claim they occur on an almost daily basis. 

Malaysian drivers are defiant, aggressive and combative. And restraint, patience and courtesy have been thrown out of the window. 

That explains why road accidents are on an upward trajectory. A New Straits Times report on January 18, 2017 informed us that a total of 521,466 accidents were recorded in 2016 – and this was an increase from 489,606 in 2015. And 80.6 percent of the road accidents were caused by human error. 

Fatalities also worsened. In 2016, total of 7,152 people died in road accidents in Malaysia – an alarming jump from 6,706 deaths in the year before. And 62.7 percent of the deaths in 2016 involved motorcyclists. 

Malaysians are losing it. It is time we teach road users road manners.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Toastmasters D51 AC2018: Dinner Themes and Emcees

We have dinner themes for the D51 Annual Conference 2018. 

These are for Welcome Night and Gala Night – Friday and Saturday respectively. 

And what can you expect? Fun, fun, fun. 

The idea is to create an ambience that is glittering, gleaming and glamorous. 

After all, it is our silver anniversary. More than that, it is a celebration of Toastmasters' presence in this part of the world for 40 years.

I can’t wait! See everybody there! From April 20-22!


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

UK's Minister for Loneliness

I had imagined a character from a dystopian novel, but Britain has created a “minister for loneliness” to tackle modern public health problems associated with social isolation. 

The government said Wednesday it had appointed Tracey Crouch after research showed as many as one in ten people felt lonely “always or often” and that very many elderly people hadn’t spoken to a friend or relative in the past month. 

Crouch, whose official title is Minister for Sport and Civil Society, is to devise a national strategy to tackle isolation across all ages, and find ways of measuring alienation in official statistics. 

"We know that there is a real impact of social isolation and loneliness on people, on their physical and mental well-being but also on other aspects in society and we want to tackle this challenge”, Crouch said. 

According to the British Red Cross, more than nine million people say they are always or often lonely, out of a population of 65.6 million. 

In the US of A, approximately 42.6 million adults aged over 45 reported suffering from chronic loneliness in a major 2010 study by the AARP. 

The most recent American census data shows more than a quarter of the population lives alone, more than half of the population is unmarried and, since the previous census, marriage rates and the number of children per household have declined, the American Psychological Association heard last year. 

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, told the organization that research indicated social isolation and living alone had “a significant and equal effect on the risk of premature death… one that was equal to or exceeded the effect of other well-accepted risk factors such as obesity”. 

Announcing Crouch’s appointment as “new ministerial lead for loneliness”, British Prime Minister Theresa May said: "I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones, people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with”. 

The role was the main recommendation in a 2017 report commissioned in memory of Jo Cox, a lawmaker and mother of two who was murdered in the street in 2016 by a neo-Nazi militant. 

"Jo Cox recognized the scale of loneliness across the country and dedicated herself to doing all she could to help those affected”, May said.

This really makes sense! Check out this video:

I was up at 4:00 AM local time to catch the match between Liverpool and Swansea City. And I had to endure watching the Reds lose to EPL's bottom club by one goal. Double sigh!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Anna Sui's Dog-themed Angpaus

McDonald’s have teamed up with fashion designer Anna Sui to create a line of red envelopes to celebrate the Year of the Dog. 

And so, they feature the Chinese American's rendition of popular Asian dog breeds like the Pug and Shiba Inu. 

These angpaus (that’s what Malaysians call these red envelopes) are traditionally filled with money and distributed as gifts during the Lunar New Year. 

The fast-food behemoth is using the festive season as a way to promote their new $1, $2, $3 Dollar Menu – and the meal deals include breakfast, burger and chicken options at every price tier. 

That seems to be the overall gist of the campaign. 

Anyway, this is strictly a localized event and the angpaus will be distributed on Tuesday, January 23 at precisely 1.23 PM, at the Japantown Peace Plaza in San Francisco, California.

Outside of the city known for the famed Golden Gate Bridge, McDonald's will work with social media darlings, Miss Gina Darling (@MissGinaDarling) and Leenda D (@LeendaDAvenue) who will also give away the red envelopes through social media sweepstakes via their Facebook and Instagram channels.

The United Nations cultural agency has named the "bird language" of Black Sea villagers in northern Turkey as an endangered part of world heritage in need of urgent protection. 

The language is a sophisticated system of whistling that enables the locals to communicate across long distances in their rugged mountain terrain. 

This unique form of whistled communication – called “kus dili” or “bird language” in Turkish – is still commonly used in the village of Kuskoy, which translates as "bird village", but 50 years ago it was widespread across the Black Sea regions of Trabzon, Rize, Ordu, Artvin and Bayburt.

Kuskoy is putting in efforts to teach the language to the next generation. Pic courtesy of Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism  

The language joins the "List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding" because of the impact of social and technological change, UNESCO says, singling out the increasing use of mobile phones as a "key threat to its survival".