Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Devil

The Devil has been inhabiting our psyches for centuries. No matter what you call him, Satan, Lucifer, The Prince of Darkness, El Diablo, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles…The Devil is real for many people. From Dante’s Inferno to Goethe’s Faust, the Devil is a firm character in the literature, religion and culture in almost every society on Earth. He's really an all-around bad dude!

The sixteenth card in the sequence of the tarot deck

The Devil is cast from heaven Gustave Doré's depiction of Satan from John Milton's Paradise Lost
Credit image: ‘Satan’ by Per Øyvind Haagensen, Norway (Webpage

Credit image:

So when our Johor ulama expressed alarm at Man U fans cheering the devil – I don’t blame him. After all, who in their right minds would support the “Red Devils”? And if they have indeed been possessed, then it’s time to exorcise the ‘devil’ from these wretched victims.

My point is how does anybody know what the Devil looks like?

Mel Gibson once told Christianity Today: “I believe the devil is real, but I don’t believe he shows up too often with horns and smoke and a forked tail. The devil is smarter than that. Evil is alluring, attractive.’’

And surely this makes a lot of sense! Hollywood has shown the Devil in human guises. In The Passion of the Christ (2004), Rosalinda Celentano’ portrayed an androgynous Satan with shaved head and eyebrows. Swedish actor Peter Stormare’s Devil in the movie Constantine (2005) was elegantly dressed in white. And Elizabeth Hurley played a very sexy she-Devil in the movie Bedazzled (2000).

And if we cannot ascertain for sure how the Devil looks like – why pick on Manchester United?
Maybe, the ulama is a disciple of Manchester City? Hahaha, that would make sense, would it not? Still, he should know better. Supporting an over-rated club like Man U does not mean that their fans are glorifying the Devil! Thank goodness, I support Liverpool, the better choice!

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Hungry Ghosts of MKT222

For some reason or another, I missed this particular video clip (MKT222 class project) – and so, I have now uploaded it. This is another over-the-top production that reminds me of the “Hungry Ghost Festival”! And there’s a 1Malaysia twist too – Indian ghosts in a Chinese cemetery!

At the fifteenth Malaysian Law Conference on Thursday, July 29, 2010, Malaysia’s human rights record received between a one-and-a-half and five out of 10 rating by local panelists in the Hard Talk on Human Rights session. These panelists include former de facto law minister, Zaid Ibrahim, Musawah director and SIS board member Zainah Anwar, Suhakam commissioner James Nayagam, the Sun editor, R Nadeswaran, and former transport minister and MCA president, Ong Tee Keat. What this means is that our human rights record is deemed to be below-average! No surprise here!
Celtic endured a Champions League first-leg loss (0-3) to Braga on Wednesday – and manager Neil Lennon refused to write-off the former. I am tongue-tied.
And In his first competitive game in charge, Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson left out 10 of his World Cup stars, including captain Steven Gerrard. Many said it was a risky strategy considering that the Europa League represented Liverpool’s only hope of European glory this season – but I for one, supported this move. As far as I am concerned, Europa League should not take center stage over the EPL. Still, Liverpool even with a supposedly depleted side, went on to secure a comfortable victory. David Ngog's double strike (17, 59) overcame Rabotnicki in their Europa League third qualifying round first leg. This win was vindication of his decision to spare his key players and let them stay home.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Disappearing Oil

How the mighty have fallen! BP is selling assets, reducing investment and cutting the dividend to pay the bills after the spill wiped £45 billion off the company’s market value, according to the Star yesterday (p B11). And Tony Hayward is exiting on October 01 and making way for American Robert Dudley to succeed him. Dudley’s challenge would be to overcome cleanup costs and liabilities from this environmental disaster, which analysts expect to exceed US$30 billion. And there may also be a political cost! He would need to convince American lawmakers BP should be allowed to keep drilling in the US. The Gulf is home to about 25 of the 40 production projects BP plans by 2015.

But enough of the bad news. The good news is that nearly two weeks after BP finally capped the biggest oil spill in US history, the oil slicks that once spread across thousands of miles of the Gulf of Mexico have largely disappeared. Nor has much oil washed up on the sandy beaches and marshes along the Louisiana coast. And the small cleanup army in the Gulf has only managed to skim up a tiny fraction of the millions of gallons of oil spilled in the 100 days since the Deepwater Horizon rig went up in flames.

So where did the oil go? I have taken the liberty to reproduce this news story from Yahoo! News posted July 28, 2010: "Some of the oil evaporates," explains Edward Bouwer, professor of environmental engineering at Johns Hopkins University. That’s especially true for the more toxic components of oil, which tend to be very volatile, he says. Jeffrey W. Short, a scientist with the environmental group Oceana, told the New York Times that as much as 40 percent of the oil might have evaporated when it reached the surface.

But the other theory that is used to explain the oil’s disappearance is that the oil has been devoured by ravenous microbes. The lesson from past spills is that the lion’s share of the cleanup work is done by nature in the form of oil-eating bacteria and fungi. The microbes break down the hydrocarbons in oil to use as fuel to grow and reproduce. A bit of oil in the water is like a feeding frenzy, causing microbial populations to grow exponentially. Typically, there are enough microbes in the ocean to consume half of any oil spilled in a month or two, says Cornell University ecologist Richard Howarth, who worked on the Exxon Valdez spill. These microbes have been found in every ocean of the world sampled, from the Arctic to Antarctica. But there are reasons to think that the process may occur more quickly in the Gulf than in other oceans.

Microbes grow faster in the warmer water of the Gulf than they do in, say, the cool waters off Alaska, where the Exxon Valdez spill occurred. Moreover, the Gulf is hardly pristine. Even before humans started drilling for oil in the Gulf – and spilling lots of it – oil naturally seeped into the water. As a result, the Gulf evolved a rich collection of petroleum-loving microbes, ready to pounce on any new spill. The microbes are clever and tough, observes Samantha Joye, microbial geochemist at the University of Georgia. Joye has shown that oxygen levels in parts of the Gulf contaminated with oil have dropped. Since microbes need oxygen to eat the petroleum, that’s evidence that the microbes are hard at work.

Isn’t BP lucky to have these new-found allies?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unproductive Meetings

I just left an Exco meeting of a Toastmasters club; I won’t identify which. But I must confess that the meeting was severely trivialized and therefore, it became a time-wasting sojourn. Perhaps many of us are not aware that meeting management tends to be a set of skills often overlooked by leaders and managers. With regard to the conduct of meetings – it is important that we do it right because only then will these meetings yield productive outcomes. And knowing how to conduct meetings properly serves to remind me and others (those privileged or cursed, as the case may be, who may be summoned to attend meetings). I would like to highly recommend meeting participants to follow these rules:

Firstly, always start on time; this respects those who showed up on time and reminds late-comers that the scheduling is serious.

Secondly, communicate the meeting’s specific purpose before you start. List what you want to discuss and who will lead those. If we cannot ascertain the specific purpose, it’s probable that we don’t even need to have the meeting in the first place. (Differentiate between specific and general purposes. Personally, I don’t believe we should have general meetings!)

Thirdly, practice time management – time seems to run out before tasks are completed. Therefore, the biggest challenge is keeping momentum to keep the process moving.

Fourthly, always end meetings on time and more importantly, close on a positive note. At the end of a meeting, review actions and assignments, and set the time for the next meeting and ask each person if they can make it or not (to get their commitment).

And lastly, develop a habit of evaluating the overall meeting. This helps us to know if the meeting has indeed been useful and therefore, productive.

I shudder to attend meetings that are meandering ones. These are nothing more than get-together rituals, almost always consisting of participants making long-winded reports that tell us nothing of real significance. I know that very little of these reports are useful – mine included – and beyond the reporting, if participants do discuss, then their ideas are at best, random and impoverished. I believe that meetings should always be short, precise and focused. Let us promise to do away with unproductive meetings! If you won't, please do not invite me!

Yesterday, the Shah Alam sessions court slapped a RM1,000 fine on 12 men who were part of a shameful group that were involved in the provocative cow-head protests on August 28 last year. Two men were also charged with sedition and fined another RM3,000 with one of the two also ordered to serve one week in jail.

MIC is strangely silent and Hindu Sangam president Mohan Shanmugam had the cheek to say the penalties did serve as a warning to those looking to stoke racial tensions. Other Indian groups (e.g. PPP, IPF, Hindraf, Malaysian Makkal Sakti Party, MIUP) zipped their mouths. It took Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, a Muslim to express dismay over the sentences as he felt that the protests were politically motivated and the fines could easily be covered by political “sponsors”. The Malaysian Insider's Dina Zaman (Webpage, posted July 27, 2010) was equally blunt. She wrote “Reading this piece of news this morning has impressed upon myself even more that in this country, the bad get away with murder. When will good prevail?” referring to the slap in the wrist punishment. “As a Muslim and Malaysian, I feel ashamed and very sad”. Very true – it is a shame and a sham! What to do? This is my Malaysia!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cocky Chua

I gave a CC speech # 4: How to Say It, titled “The Unfinished Story” at the Taman Indrahana Toastmasters meeting this evening. My evaluator was Lim Thian Seng ACS CL, a veteran evaluator who is very much-respected. I did well – the language I portrayed was vivid and generously infused with rhetorical devices. In fact, Thian Seng said my opening was scintillating because he was able to relate to all 5 senses!
Chua Soi Lek, MCA President is a real cocky cowboy who is quick on the draw. He has decided to come out with both guns blazing in a do-or-die shootout. In fact, he thinks he is a great gunslinger and so, with nary a thought, he aimed one .45 caliber Schofield Single Action pistol at the Selangor government, shooting them for their failure to deliver on their election pledges, and his second revolver was directed at the Penang CM for getting himself embroiled in a quarrel with a federal civil servant (Check out the Star, July 26, 2010, pp N1, N8). Chua may claim “I am not trying to show off ...”, but he does seem trigger-happy! Still, he is not so stupid as to be not aware that he as well as the MCA can be caught in a deadly crossfire. After all, the other side can call upon firepower too. Still Chua is trying to go on the offensive. He has little choice. He admits that “if MCA cannot regain the support from the people, especially the Chinese community, we will not survive in politics” (The Sun, July 26, 2010, p 2). I am smirking at this thought! What chance does MCA has? Zilch, I reckon!

Funny Cartoons

I discovered BlogPerfume (Webpage in one of my virtual forays and had a good laugh with the cartoons featured on this site this morning. I selected my choice of the Best 5 and I am sharing them here:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Penang Acrimony

It’s a small world indeed! I attended the MidValley Toastmasters Club meeting and I was greeted by a former student of mine from Nilai International College (now Nilai University College), Paul Tan Poh Leong – he studied Marketing under me – and who is now the President of this Club. It was great to see him again! The other member whom I met was Sheryl Chieng – I didn’t know her but she still deserves a mention because she is currently studying Psychology at HELP University College. And then I bumped into a very familiar person, NJ Singam, who gamely took on two roles this evening – as the Installing Officer as well as the General Evaluator. This club did a 2-in-1 by bundling the Installation of new Exco members with their regular meeting. Gerard Peter, the IPP graciously pushed the Evaluator role that was his originally, to me, and I readily accepted. I, of course, gave a candid evaluation to Wattson Lai who was attempting his CC speech # 4 titled “Likeability Factor” and guess what? I was voted the Champion Evaluator. Anyway, I value this opportunity because it not only will help the speaker – really, I believe so – but it also affords me practice given that the Speech Evaluation contest is already around the corner. Like many clubs with “young” members – time management could certainly be improved! A good meeting overall even if it went 45 minutes into extra time!

The verbal spat between the Chief Minister of Penang and a senior civil servant makes juicy reading. The fact of the matter is that the latter, state development officer Nik Ali Mat Yunus has gone overboard by calling the former, Lim Guan Eng biadap (disrespectful) and dayus (coward) – in fact, the Malay terms are hard-hitting in an insolently loutish manner as compared to the English equivalent words. Worse, Nik Ali showed up at an UMNO press conference, distributing prepared press statements to reporters and at the same time, firing salvos at the CM. This clearly compromised his neutrality; therefore, he is already guilty of breaching the General Orders. What this means is that Nik Ali as a civil servant is not impartial and non-partisan. And the Federal government made it very political by backing Nik Ali – I suppose this is not surprising; this support for him made political sense to UMNO especially since the civil service is a gargantuan vote-bank.
Plain-spoken Lim had rightly censured Nik Ali on the latter’s purported role in some questionable projects – one of which relates to the Botanical Garden arches. By haranguing Nik Ali and pointing out his incompetence, Lim also unwittingly invited a response from the latter. And so the verbal sparks flew. I don’t think this benefits anybody – but from a citizen’s point of view, Lim would surely have scored political points from Penangites (and even non-Penangites) on this issue – but like it or not, the recalcitrant Nik Ali would still remain in Penang, now that he has garnered political support. And now we have an impasse! So where do these two quarreling personalities go from here?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Of Jedi Knights

I am aware that our mainstream newspapers have gleefully reported that most Malaysians are supportive of the government’s subsidy cuts that took effect from July 16, 2010. This is more so when it is recognized that the quantum of the subsidy cuts were less than those suggested by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) and did not embrace all the items (only fuel and sugar, to start with) that were labeled under the bad subsidies category. I was reading Anna Taing’s column “Random Thoughts” with just a bit more interest because she too was of the opinion that “subsidy cuts will not result in any ‘tangible’ savings at a time when the government is already running a deficit. It just enables the government to spend the money it does not have…” (The Edge Malaysia, July 19, 2010, p 8). But what made my eyes open wide were the figures she gave in her article. She stressed that this subsidy reduction of RM780 million is really not significant – she asked readers to “compare this to the leakages due to corruption – statistics have shown this amount is as high as RM10 billion a year! And consider the quantum of gas subsidies that are given to the power sector, in particular, the independent power producers, which amounted to some RM12.7 billion in 2009” (ibid). That’s why I have steadfastly maintained – the powers that be must exorcise the evils of government corruption, cronyism, etc before they make the move to eliminate bad subsidies. Only then can the government make the claim that they have the people's interests at heart! Duh!

Further to my blog posting dated July 11, 2010 – here’s another reason why the traditional census is dying, and a good thing too. “Filling in the forms has become more onerous: what started as a short questionnaire about who lived where has turned into an inquisition about everything from toilet and car ownership to race and religion. As a result, compliance rates are falling. The decline of deference raises worries about reliability” (The Economist, July 17-23, 2010, p 14). This is not just applicable to the UK – which the above passage describes – but it is also true of MaIaysia too – where the 3-part Questionnaire consists of 20 pages in total!
And just to take the mickey out of this bloated exercise, last time, when asked about their religious affiliation, 0.7% of Britons replied that they were Jedi Knights (ibid).
I wonder too if the Malaysian constitution mandates this census. The US constitution requires it to conduct this shoe-leather exercise, which is why, according to The Economist – this year’s effort is going to cost American taxpayers over $11 billion! (ibid)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Shiloh's Dressing

I did mention about how Muslims in Malaysia have been told to avoid the crosses and devils that inhabit football (read my posting dated July 21, 2010). Then I came across this BBC News (posted June 14, 2010) that Somali militants actually threatened football fans they would be publicly flogged – or worse – if they were caught watching the World Cup on TV.

Militant group Hizbul-Islam had arrested 10 people in north-east of the capital Mogadishu where fans were watching the game between Argentina and Nigeria. And militants reportedly killed two people as they attacked a house where people were watching a WC match.

The ban dates back to a law that was introduced by the Islamic Courts Union who took control of much of Somalia for six months in 2006. It bans Somalis from all forms of entertainment considered un-Islamic under the courts' strict interpretation of Syariah law, like video games and watching sports in public.

Wow, maybe one day soon, Malaysia will regress to become another Somalia! And Malaysian ulama are already at the forefront to defend their religion. Malaysian Muslims are so fortunate that they have this righteous group of devout scholars to guide them – I didn't know they are so weak and so easily corruptible that any sign of the cross and the devil – and they’ll lose their faith and start engaging in sinful acts?

It’s really much ado about nothing when tabloids decided to target Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s (see photo – she’s in the middle) dressing – clothes that are on the more boyish side – fedoras, ties, blazers. The concerned media were making an exaggerated fuss because they were worried this will affect Shi's gender identity later on in life! It is more probable that Shi is in the limelight because of her mother’s celebrity status, Me, I would rather fuss over Angelina Jolie any time!
But I genuinely thought her astute comments when defending her daughter’s “tomboyish” clothes were very aptly appropriate : “Children should be allowed to express themselves in whatever way they wish without anybody judging them because it is an important part of their growth. Society always has something to learn when it comes to the way we judge each other, label each other. We have far to go”. Yes, I have to agree with her. We judge people too quickly, too readily, too freely.

Suaram's Lament

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) has just released their 2009 Human Rights Report yesterday, reaffirming the worsening environment for human rights in Malaysia. They cited perceived abuses of power by law enforcement agencies, heightened intolerance towards dissent and resistance to reform.
The Sun (July 22, 2010, p 11) mentioned Suaram director Dr Kua Kia Soong had lamented that while the government had agreed to review the Internal Security Act (ISA), they had ignored two other detention-without-trial laws – the Emergency Ordinance and the Dangerous Drugs Act. Other laws like the Sedition Act, Official Secrets Act, and Section 27 of the Police Act remain firmly in place, undermining civil liberties, the report said.
It is also interesting to read in the same newspaper (p. 14) that the UN working group on arbitrary detention who visited the country last month – at the invitation of the Malaysian government – had compiled their preliminary report, and group chairperson El Hadji Malick Sow had spoken out clearly that all detentions under the preventive laws in Malaysia are arbitrary – because the judiciary is not involved. As such, there is no sentencing and no respect for the judiciary. He was stating the obvious! But don’t expect anything out of this anytime soon. Suaram had already bemoaned that the government has yet to respond pro-actively despite the many recommendations made by human rights NGOs in the past. And Malaysians continue to wait patiently…

Friday, July 23, 2010

Klang Bak Kut Teh

And finally, the sixth and final video clip from my MKT222 class. This YouTube video promotes Klang Bak Kut Teh with a daring cheekiness that borders on near-lunacy. It’s a campy and really over-the-top production with a wacky message that is best described as a flight of fancy! This commercial has the gall to actually intimate that this Klang dish has restorative powers!! It is just too ballsy for words!!! (BTW , please excuse their grammar...)

And last evening, I traversed across KL to attend the Metro Toastmasters meeting. I was the evaluator for Ellie Low who did CC # 4: How to Say It. Her topic was on post-natal taboos! This was not exactly my cup of tea, but her use of simple words and sentences plus her smiling demeanour and confident delivery engaged me nevertheless. I found today's meeting to be interesting in other different ways. I really loved the way the Table Topics Master, Saiful introduced song titles as topics for participants to deliver their 2-minute speeches extemporaneously. Then there was the unpredictable Khoo Boo Hock, CTM CL who as Table Topics Evaluator, wasn't content with just providing feedback to the 5 speakers. He had decided to sneak in a big word "Necrophilia" – and went on to explain its meaning, as well as to give us a joke pertaining to this "erotic attraction to or sexual contact with corpses"! And of course, Hakim Hamzah, ACB ALB – Division P Governor – as the General Evaluator, capped a fine evening of speeches, evaluations and fellowship by his matter-of-fact remarks that exuded effortless eloquence.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

5th Video Clip for MKT222

I didn't realize that HICT has so many budding actors! The fifth video clip is shown here:

I was the General Evaluator for today’s meeting in my home club, HICT Toastmasters Club. I was really pleased that members practiced punctuality – we actually started the meeting on time! There were four speakers, and one of them delivered a speech from an advanced manual – which meant that I was roped in to be Alan Tan’s evaluator. Two "young" speakers (Mehala and Angellica) did their CC speech # 2 and they showed real potential. I, too, realized that for our members to really progress – they have to get out of Klang. I advised members to be adventurous and to gain exposure amongst experienced Toastmasters in other clubs in order that they can accelerate their learning. All appeared receptive to my suggestion, which is great!
Oon Yeoh believes that the opposition parties shouldn’t worry about the government clampdown on their newspapers. He advocates that PR should create their own media channels online – rather than complain endlessly about lack of access to traditional media channels which are regulated or controlled by the government (The Sun, July 21, 2010, p 13). As he says: “No newspapers? Use Wordpress. No radio? Create podcasts. No TV? YouTube. Can’t afford Apco? Use Facebook and Twitter!” I agree wholeheartedly!

Neverending Work

I forgot – there’s still moderation of exam papers, examination invigilation and the grading of assignments and other types of coursework that I have to do. As I can rightly claim, my work is never done!
Kosmo! had carried a report about Muslims here who wittingly or unwittingly wear football jerseys which display images of crosses, liquor brands and devils. And Johor Religious Council advisor Nooh Gadot had declared that wearing such jerseys was forbidden in Islam. “It is as if Muslims are worshipping and exalting the symbols of other religions. Islam does not compromise on this matter, regardless of whether it is worn for fun, fashion or sport,” he said. Perak Mufti Harussani Zakaria also agreed with Nooh and explained that although Islam did not forbid its followers from participating in sports or dressing up, it has to be done within the boundaries of Islamic law. Ah-huh. This news excerpt appeared in the Star, July 19, 2010, p N39.

If I read this correctly, this means that Muslims in Johor and Perak are cautioned against supporting teams such as West Ham, AC Milan, Parma and Manchester United! Will there be a fatwa any time soon?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More MKT222 Videos

Today, I have uploaded another two video clips from two other groups of SNHU students taking my MKT222 class:

I dropped in at the Petaling Jaya Hilton this evening for their regular Toastmasters meeting. Today’s meeting was very well-organized with 21 Toastmasters from 14 clubs in attendance. Stephen Fernando pushed me to take up the role of General EvaluatorI This was the first time, I think that we had our meeting in the Boardroom – it was all very posh and comfy! I can tell you – we usually had fried meehoon but this evening, even the noodles became temptingly appetizing. Perhaps because we had such a diverse assembly today that this meeting overflowed with boundless high energy. I had a most satisfying meeting this evening.

Indecent Proposal

Nope, I have not forgotten about our charity initiative HELP for Haiti. Never fear! – we are almost at the tail-end of this campaign, which involves surrendering the monies to UNICEF Malaysia. As you will recall, we had previously raised RM8,102. The good news is that Dr. Paul Chan and Mrs. Chan had generously topped up this amount by RM4,000 – bringing the total to RM12,102! We are indeed grateful to this benevolent couple for their support! I will keep everyone updated.
I read this intelligent article in The Malaysian Insider (Webpage, posted July 19, 2010) and I was suitably impressed. The article's honesty came from a Malay lawyer writing under the pseudonym Penyair Purba – who was referring to UMNO (again) courting and wooing PAS – in the hope of forging so-called Malay unity:

“…how people… forget what Umno did to PAS when it lost Kelantan? It established a JPP (federal agency) and distributed money among its cronies. What about oil royalty? When it lost Terengganu, it became wang ihsan. And UMNO claimed Tok Guru as a vengeful person. Oh my, you rob a man and then you want to befriend him. When he refused and asked his money back, you say that he is full of vengeance. Now the victim is blamed!"

And “Oh yeah, I heard grumbling! UMNO did this, UMNO did that. UMNO built universities, UMNO gave scholarships. But do we realize that whose money was used to do just all the above? Mahathir spent his own million to build PLUS expressways and the KLCC? Did Najib spend his own money to give scholarships via the Permata programme”.

“Come on people. UMNO did this and did that using OUR money. We paid taxes and whatnot. If PAS or PKR were the government, wouldn’t they be doing the same thing? Road, school, infrastructures and whatnot are the government’s responsibility”.

I certainly agree with this perspective that “the Malays will continue to lag behind if we allow UMNO to remain in power. We will be fed with bedtime stories that the Malays are under siege…”.

Finally, “we must never blame others for our backwardness and lacking in every aspect, be it in the economic or education fields. Instead, the one who must take the blame is UMNO. UMNO has failed us and after 53 years in power, there is no more chance. Out it must go!

The Malays must move forward. We must earn our respect and position. We must not allow everything from scholarships to house discounts be given to us because our parents happen to be Malay. Does everybody get to decide their race before birth? We Malays are not lazy or intellectually inferior. We must be competitive. Believe me the moment you let the Malays stand on their own without crutches, they will survive. After all, that is the natural law. You give a fish, people will eat for a day, but when you teach to fish, people will eat for good. You continue helping the Malays, you will only prolong their dependence on crutches.

And for the Malays to move forward, PAS should never marry UMNO, again. Let UMNO be gila talak. And gila talak people won’t stay that long”.

I need not add anything more because it bared the core truths about UMNO’s foolhardiness.

Monday, July 19, 2010

MKT222 Video Clips

As already mentioned in my July 10 posting, my SNHU students were presenting their MKT222 coursework – as well as on two other days: Friday (July 09) and Monday (July 12). Thanks to Desmond Ng, I have now a selection of video clips my students made as part of their group class projects. Two of these videos are shown here:

This evening, I was attending the KL Advanced Toastmasters meeting, where I delivered my CC speech # 3: Get to the Point, titled “Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha!” – a topic about stress management. Again, I did a little research on the subject and had the points jotted down. But for some reason or another – even though I had some time, I was a wee bit lazy, and didn’t get to write my speech nor practice it at all. And so I was again compelled to make an impromptu speech. Still, I did reasonably well. Lucky MA was my lead evaluator and he too concluded likewise. For Lucky to say that – now that is a precious compliment! Even in the Open Evaluation, those that spoke up concurred. And after all, I did win the Best Assignment Speaker award. But the one compliment that overwhelmed me came from an English gentleman by the name of Tony (a guest who is visiting Malaysia) who came to speak to me one-on-one after the meeting. He told me that he was observing me closely as I spoke, saw that I had the audience’s full attention, and he was very impressed. Gosh, I tell you I was blushing even as I typed his remarks regarding my speechmaking. I am really humbled.

Bill Sim was voted the Best Evaluator and a first-time guest, Phang was voted Best Table Topics Speaker. Overall, a great meeting was had by everyone who came today.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I am elated. This semester’s examination question papers have all been completed. This coming week is the last week of classes before finals. And I will soon start preparing for the new semester at the new place.

I watched Inception – an interesting movie presented by writer-director-producer Christopher Nolan – and found it complex. I mean it’s a story about dreams, and dreams within dreams. It’s fractured storytelling that requires you to hold onto your senses because otherwise, you might end up trapped in a limbo of distracted obliviousness. It’s a cerebral movie that makes you think and seriously think again. In fact, Inception requires the audience to take in a collection of rules, exceptions, settings, ideas, emotions, and abilities in order to understand the text, let alone the fascinating subtext. The Big Idea here is dream invasion.

It’s a story about Leonardo DiCaprio’s character who is a thief of the subconscious – hired by corporations to slip into a business rival’s dreams and steal an idea. Or in this case, plant an idea – a process called “inception”. And to accomplish this, he assembled a team with specialist roles like “The Architect”, “The Forger”, and “The Chemist” in order to pull off the job.

Inception layers the storyline with dreams on top of dreams to the point where a unique keepsake called a “totem” is needed in order to inform a character as to whether or not he or she is still in a ‘dream’ state. And audiences are treated to startling visions: Paris turning on top of itself; a freight train suddenly barreling through a downtown street; Leonardo DiCaprio’s character stealthily travelling through another person’s multi-leveled dream; moving surreptitiously past a peopled subconscious in a wholly fabricated city. And by the climax, the action is occurring in at least four separate and simultaneous realities.

Part sci-fi, part heist caper, part action thriller, and part love story, Inception takes familiar film genres, and plays with them, creating a wondrous dream-world. As multiple storylines and characters converge into one intriguing and twisty narrative, the movie draws the viewer in deeper and deeper until I’m not even sure what is what anymore. When you have a great story and combine brilliant talents and advanced special effects together, you know you have a summer blockbuster that will blow your mind. So, be prepared to take a leap of faith on a trip laden with surreal gravity-defying effects and mind-bending visuals.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

HELP UC Toastmasters

I attended the HELP University College Toastmasters meeting, and I must say, it was a very energetic, spirited and perky meeting that I witnessed, especially for a Saturday morning. Although Toastmasters meetings are always full of enthusiastic fervor – this morning’s proceedings were a blast! When you put people like Jason, Ivan and the other zestful members in a room, what can you expect, except a great meeting? There were table topics, project speeches and evaluations – the essential ingredients of an excellent Toastmasters meeting. Indeed, it was excellent!

I was asked to be one of seven evaluators (yes, the members were really gung-ho, that they indeed delivered seven speeches!) and I was pleasantly surprised when I took home a certificate and trophy for being voted Best Evaluator! I evaluated Qin Mei who surprised everyone by delivering an impromptu speech from the “Speaking to Inform” manual – I reckoned she took about 45 minutes to prepare her speech. Y'see, she wasn't in the original line-up of speakers. What made her to pull a stunt like that? Well, Jason (the VP Education) put her up to it – he had persuaded her to speak, to take advantage of my presence! To her credit, she took up the gauntlet. She was brimming with confidence and I marvelled at the ease in which she spoke. And she spoke well. Of course, for a speech that is meant to be informative – It was the first speech from the advanced manual “The Speech to Inform” and the title was “Self-defense 201: Staying Safe” – it helps that she is into martial arts, specifically Taekwondo.

Also, Cassandra Wong and Jason Moi won Best Table Topics and Best Assignment speakers' awards respectively. There were Toastmasters from other clubs who took up supporting roles: Janice Lee (TTDI Toastmasters Club) whom I had met on Thursday at the MIA Toastmasters meeting was the General Evaluator and Mohd Hadzrin Shah (UEM Academy Toastmasters Club) was the evaluator for Zoe Lo. Good to see Mantissa Toastmasters Club members too. I certainly enjoyed the meeting and I promised myself I will come again!

I only just picked out this news bulletin: UK doctors are advising football fans who went to the World Cup in South Africa to check their HIV status if they had unprotected sex on their trip (BBC News, posted July 16, 2010). So who says England is coming back empty-handed?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Time to Tighten Belts

At the MIA Toastmasters meeting yesterday evening, I was one of three evaluators. Two Toastmaster luminaries were also present: NJ SIngam and Yeoh Cheng Lim who took up the roles of General Evaluator and evaluator respectively. And it was also great to see familiar faces like Marcus Chee and Thilaga Kanapathi as it had been quite awhile I have been to this club. This term, Johnny Yong is the club President – I always remember him to be hard-working, heedful and humble.

Well, yesterday evening, text messages were already abuzz with news of impending price increases and subsidy cuts that will come into force at midnight. So this morning, I woke up to find that the government has increased RON95 petrol and diesel prices to RM1.85 and RM1.75 respectively – a hike of 5 sen per liter. The subsidies for RON97 have been completely removed and its price will be subject to market forces. Natural gas goes up by 10 sen per kilogram to RM1.85. And the price of sugar is also increased by 25 sen per kilogram to RM1.90. Najib has declared that this brilliant move would save his government RM750 million a year. Big deal. The government may save this amount but they will also squander and splurge even more on something else. Leave it to politicians to come up with creative ways to spend taxpayers’ hard-earned monies.

And does the government care if common folks are further disadvantaged? My position is loud and clear. With stagnant wages, spiraling inflation and escalating cost of living – this is a stupid thing the government are doing! FIRST, eradicate corruption, eliminate cronyism, erase wasteful government spending before sanctioning these measures. Do you think the government listened? Phooey!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Corrupt Leaders

A Merdeka Center for Opinion Research telephone poll conducted between January 21 and April 26 and reported in the Star (July 14, 2010, p N6) found that 70% of Malay and bumiputra respondents agreed that the main threat to their position was corruption among their leaders! Only 20% felt that the bumiputras’ position was threatened by demands made by other races. Now if this group wants to progress, then they should know what to do. Expel these leaders, eject them from the corridors of power, evict them once and for all. When the time comes to cast the ballot, they must know what to do!

Another interesting revelation is that 72% of this group felt they still needed help to move ahead while 59% believed the special rights accorded to them should continue. I don’t blame them for subscribing to this view – it only shows that the government’s delivery system has failed miserably. Now this is interesting: The lack of confidence in government aid programs reaching the needy is a view that was consistent across ethnic lines, region and urban/rural setting, this same poll revealed. This was reflected in the 63% who expressed dissatisfaction on the delivery system. Sure, corruption and cronyism overshadows everything else in this country, but we should also apportion blame on the government machinery that persists to be inefficient and ineffective – although to be fair, there have been improvements.

I just saw this headline in The Malaysian Insider: “Harakah’s permit renewed” – with the caveat that the newspaper is sold only at the party’s headquarters and offices. “Freedom” on a tight leash.

Press Clampdown

I was being diligent and so I went into the MQA website ( to check out SETARA ’09. Okay, HELP University College is rated as “very good” and grouped together with the others such as Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Universiti Utara Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Perlis, Universiti Malaysia Pahang, Inti International University, Nilai University College, and UCSI University – a grouping of 25 tertiary institutions in total.
Over the past few weeks, the Home Ministry had launched an all-out clampdown on all opposition party organs beginning with PKR’s Suara Keadilan, and followed by PAS’ Harakah and DAP’s Rocket. No government should arbitrarily prohibit publications and the circulation of information. And The Printing Presses and Publications Act (1984) should be abrogated.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shahrizat to the Rescue?

This evening, the Fun Fitness Toastmasters Club had their inaugural meeting, and I was there as the General Evaluator. Although there were only nine of us – it was an enjoyable meeting nevertheless. The venue of their next meeting is at FRIM in Kepong – this club has an outdoorsy concept, perfect for Toastmasters who wish to indulge in public speaking in a natural environment. Go, go, go, y'all!
According to the Star today (p N12), Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, visited tribal settlements in Sarawak state Tuesday after rights activists released a new report documenting seven previously unpublicized claims, including that of a woman in her early 30s who was allegedly held captive for a week by loggers eight years ago. She said she became pregnant after she was raped. Shahrizat promised to reopen investigations into claims of abuse – including that some girls as young as 14 had been among the victims – and deploy welfare officers to monitor complaints from impoverished Penan tribal communities. Industry officials have repeatedly rejected claims of misconduct by their workers and police have said in the past that they did not have enough evidence to prosecute anyone. This is the familiar refrain we hear over the years.
"The Penan community should know that now they have someone to champion their cause and that is us", Shahrizat had said. Now isn't this statement so patronizing, so typical of a BN politician?
The Penans have long protested against timber companies, saying they encroach upon the tribe's ancestral land. Some also voice concerns that state officials were protecting the loggers because it is a major economic sector. When will we see justice for the long-suffering Penans?

Malaysia's "Excellent" Universities

On Monday (July 12, 2010), Higher Education Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin announced 18 "excellent" universities and private university colleges in Malaysia, as outlined by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) six-tiered rankings, called SETARA ‘09, or the 2009 Rating System for Malaysian Higher Education Institutions.
Mohamed Khaled said among the top scorers were Universiti Malaya, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Universiti Sains Malaysia, The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Curtin University of Technology Sarawak, International Medical University, Sunway University College and Taylor's University College. A very interesting list.
None, however, were ranked Tier-6 (Outstanding), Tier-2 (Satisfactory) or Tier-1 (Weak). A total of 25 universities and university colleges were ranked in Tier-4 (Very Good) and four university colleges received Tier-3 (Good) ranking.

Mohamed Khaled said results for the 2009's rating system of institutions of higher learning were based on 25 criteria, covering three generic dimensions which were the input, process and output of the universities. I don’t have the specific details but one criterion that should be measured is “graduate employment” – especially given the incidences of high graduate unemployment in this country.

Of course, university ranking systems are not generally welcomed by academics for many reasons – but in today’s fast-paced world of instant gratification, we ignore them at our own peril.

That’s why I have students asking me, why is HELP not in the "excellent" list? I shrugged my shoulders. I have no answers for them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Importance of English

This evening, I was one of three assignment speakers at the Taman Indrahana Toastmasters Club meeting, delivering my CC speech # 2, titled “Servant Leadership – What It Really Means”. My speech today was really incredible because it was totally extemporaneous. Amazing, kan? Julian Gan who was supposed to be the General Evaluator couldn’t make it, and I had to scramble to find a replacement GE. I had contacted 13 other Toastmasters friends and phew, at the eleventh hour, managed to get Jamila Khan. Honestly, I am ever so grateful to her for agreeing to be the GE at short notice. Anyway, she is no stranger to our club – having been here three times already. Importantly, this was the first meeting I organized as the Vice President Education – and despite the last minute withdrawals, I still managed to put together a successful, if not enjoyable meeting.

Authorities in Beijing plan to make most residents – from hairdressers to police officers – learn English under a drive to convert the Chinese capital into a “world city”, state media said yesterday and reported by today’s The Sun (p 5). A minimum of 60% of shop assistants, receptionists and hairdressers under 40 will also be required to pass English tests by 2015, as will 80% of police officers, the Global Times report announced.

If the Chinese in China realize the importance of English – why do Malaysians shy from learning English? Writing English? Speaking English? In today’s connected world, the English language has travelled everywhere. Indeed, English has become a global language, a common language for the world. If we can acknowledge this, that means we have come to accept how important this language is. So important that the English language has become the popular standard for international communication.

Proton Part II

Yesterday, I popped up unannounced at the Sime Darby Healthcare Toastmasters meeting, and still, I was given the role of evaluator for Shirley Bak who was doing her Advanced speech. Stephen Fernando who was also present (he was the General Evaluator) gave a 20-minute info-talk on how to craft a humorous speech, and which I found to be very useful – more so, when the Humorous Speech contest is just around the corner. Other senior Toastmasters who came to lend support included Yeoh Cheng Lim (Taman Indrahana) and Emil Anthony (MAS Mawar).

Today’s The Sun carried the Proton story in page 13. Proton chairperson Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh was quoted to have said that Proton cars are now exported to 25 countries in key markets from the UK to the Middle East, and across Southeast Asia and Australasia. But it is interesting to read the Wikipedia postings. In 2009, Proton only sold 960 cars with a reduced 0.05% market share in the UK, and even if we try to stretch our imagination, it cannot be considered a key market at all. The company has also exited from Ireland, New Zealand, Trinidad & Tobago, and Philippines – although I am aware that information may be suspect – it is Wikipedia after all.

From a marketing point of view, I identify ‘key markets’ as the following: USA – indisputably, the largest single market in the world, representing roughly 25% of the total world market for all products and services; Japan, being the second largest in the world; and Germany, being the largest single country market in Europe (Keegan & Green, 2005, p 13). Granted that this info may be dated – we cannot after all, ignore other huge markets like China and India – nevertheless they represent huge market potential for Proton, if only the company has the courage to venture into these challenging markets. Still, it is noteworthy to mention that even in a competitive market like Australia – with more than 46 brands selling more than 250 models – Proton is ostensibly doing well because of the popularity of the Proton S16, Australia's lowest priced car (launched in November 2009) – the only new four door sedan available in Australia for less than $16,000 and outpoints many low cost hatches and three door models by offering a 1.6 liter engine and great equipment levels (Webpage, posted February 16, 2010). As I am fond of saying to my students, using price as a strategy is rarely able to provide a sustainable competitive advantage to the organization. There will always be somebody, somewhere trying to screw you on price. It happened in the UK to Proton, it will happen again in Australia, you can bet on it!

And just in case, I am accused of Proton-bashing, let me inform readers that I do know what I am talking about and I have the right to say my piece because I am a taxpayer. Plus the fact that I am currently driving a Proton Satria Neo!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Proton Celebrates 25 Years

Yesterday, Ahmad Talib’s column in the New Sunday Times hosted the headline “Proton does Malaysia proud”. He was writing about Proton’s success as they celebrate their silver jubilee this year. No doubt this success is reflected in Malaysia’s ability to assemble, design, make and produce cars. As Proton prime mover, Mahathir Mohamad said “The idea of a national car is not to beat our chest. We want to modernize our country through skills development” (Webpage, accessed today). But at what price?

Since their inception, Proton are protected and shielded – they have been the recipient of tax breaks and “other government incentives”. E.g. The national carmaker’s annual report showed that they received a grant amounting to RM193.7 million for the FY2008 period (The Edge Malaysia, June 07-13, 2010). Additionally, import duties and taxes were levied against foreign carmakers. What the government did was to jack up the import duties of all non-Malaysian cars by between 40%-300%, thus making the latter much more expensive to buy. So, that way, even if the price of Proton is raised – and the company can further augment profits – people will still feel it is cheaper to buy a Proton. This made Proton uncompetitive – they know they can come up with a wreck to sell and Malaysians will be forced to buy it.

The government claimed this is needed because Proton have a job to do to build up the automotive and engineering capability of Malaysia. And to do that, Malaysians had to endure high car prices that are of poor quality! E.g. The JD Power Asia Pacific 2003 Malaysia Initial Quality Study (IQS) – which relates to the build quality of products of various brands and also some indication of where the quality of Malaysian-made products stands in the global context – owners of non-national makes reported 136 PP100 on average, against owners of national makes reporting 282 PP100. (Note the average number of problems reported by new-vehicle owners was 259 PP100 for the industry overall). And how did Proton fare? Predictably, Proton was below average with a dismal 303 PP100 (Webpage, accessed today).

In happier times, Proton used to sell six out of every 10 new cars in Malaysia, but steadily, their share of the domestic market have slid to 57% in 1993, down to 44 percent in 2004 and tumbled to just 28% in 2009.

And according to Kadir Jasin/Cheah Chor Sooi’s coffee-table book "A Saga: Proton's 25th-Year Story" (launched on Friday night), the Proton had been exported to 64 countries, cumulatively since 1986. For the financial year 2009/2010, there are 25 active markets. In any case, exports are still insignificant in terms of profit contribution.

So, okay, maybe in 2010, we shall give Proton the benefit of our doubt and let’s say Proton has improved. I am being ludicrously optimistic here! But the fact remains that Proton continue to face challenges even today! And Malaysians continue to be shortchanged!

Spain Wins WC

Well, the Netherlands tried but it was Spain which prevailed and emerged victorious. A through ball by the influential Cesc Fabregas allowed Andres Iniesta to dramatically score with four minutes left in extra time to give Spain their first World Cup with a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands. One notable fact about the game is that it was a bad-tempered contest that produced 14 yellow cards!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Germany is No. 3

Malaysia began her national headcount Tuesday (July 06) and it will end Aug 22, with 29,000 enumerators fanning throughout the country, visiting an estimated 7.5 million homes to collect data (Blogpage, accessed today). Officially called the Population and Household Census of Malaysia 2010, this is one massive exercise that is going to cost the government a lot of money. The Malaysian Insider put the cost at RM200 million (Webpage, posted June 29, 2010).

Perhaps, Malaysia should consider UK’s re-think on this same matter. The official population count, or Census, looks set to be scrapped in the UK after more than 200 years, it emerged yesterday. UK’s The Daily Telegraph had disclosed that Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude was reported to have said that the Census, which takes place every 10 years, was an expensive and inaccurate way of measuring the number of people in Britain. Instead, the Government is examining different and cheaper ways to count the population more regularly, using existing public and private databases, including credit reference agencies.

This behemothic survey which takes place every 10 years is a big-ticket item and the next Census (expected in 2011) is estimated to cost a whopping £482 million. According to webpage, posted July 09, 2010), this suggestion is likely to be approved by Cabinet next week. It will be too late to prevent the next Census on March 27, 2011 from going ahead – but if the Census is done away with, then it will represent a historic shift in the way that information about the nation’s population, religion and social habits is gathered.

Maude has declared that the Census was "out of date almost before it had been done". He is one smart dude! Now, will the Malaysian government please take note of this?!?!

The Germany-Uruguay game is really inconsequential and even meaningless because no self-respecting football fan is going to remember it after it is over. This third-place play-off is often billed as a match that no team wants to play. Some say the two teams will play for pride and honor. To their credit, both teams were determined to end this World Cup campaign on a high note and so, we witnessed a rousing and pulsating game.

Germany’s Thomas Mueller capped a period of dominance with a straightforward finish (18) after Uruguay’s Fernando Muslera spilled a long-range drive from Bastian Schweinsteiger. Undaunted, Uruguay forced their way back into proceedings through Edinson Cavani (28) and then went ahead when Diego Forlan met Egidio Arevalo’s cross with a superb volley (51). But more poor goalkeeping from Muslera allowed Marcell Jansen to equalise (56) and Sami Khedira then capitalised on Uruguay's failure to clear a Mesut Ozil corner (82) to ensure Germany would end their tournament on a happy note. Yes, Germany secured third place with a 3-2 win.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Servant Leadership

Toastmasters news. Division B had their TLI (stands for Toastmasters Leadership Institute) training today for club officers. The usual commonplace stuff to inform the latter who didn’t read their club officers’ manuals! Taman Indrahana Toastmasters Club is my only Division B club which sent the full complement of club officers to this TLI – in fact, today’s session was attended by more non-Division B participants than Division B club members! Still, Lim Lay Kun, the Organizing Chair did a marvelous job.

I found two speeches this afternoon to be conflicting. Division B Governor, Irene Lee in her opening address talked of her ambition – that every Division B club must endeavor to achieve the President’s DCP award. For non-Toastmasters, DCP stands for Distinguished Club Program, the highest level of recognition that is the general measure of club success. She is really into chasing and pursuing club points in order to find glory for Division B and by extension, self-promotion. This is a misplaced priority, an unwise enterprise. Furthermore, immediately after, District 51 Governor Thannimalai extolled his philosophy of putting “members first” in everything we do – this is the essence of “servant leadership” – this means that the servant leader serves the members he/she leads which implies that the latter are an end in themselves rather than a means to an organizational purpose. In Irene’s case, the quest for President’s DCP points takes precedence for it can realize her Division B theme, which is “Soaring Together to Greatness” – this puts the club first, and members second. It is worth rememebring that by serving members' needs, we will surely attain the recognitions she so desires, and not the other way round!

Just in case, you are one of those who fails to understand what the above means, servant leaders devote themselves to serving the needs of organization members; focus on meeting the needs of those they lead; and develop employees to bring out the best in them. And that is what every Toastmaster expects! Too often, we forget this! And that is my gripe! The individual joins Toastmasters for self, not for the organization!

I was surfing the Net and eyeballing news stories from diverse sources when I stumbled upon an inviting article on Yahoo! News (webpage It was about Britain’s “happiest” workers. And we already know it, but this time, there’s a turn to it, and it is that money may not be the answer to all of life's troubles, but earning £50,000 a year – and not a penny more – could make you among the happiest in Britain, a survey found.

Workers who get paid £50,000 ($75,840) a year were the happiest bunch among those in the £10,000 to £70,000 wage bracket, with one in five people saying that they had never felt more content with their lives.

The wealthier, the more miserable, with people who earn above £70,000 admitting that they felt less happy than those who take home £50,000 a year, a survey by money management website found.

"With a salary of 50,000 you've got the combination of perhaps a personality where you're more easily content with your lot but also at a salary which is very much above the national average," Ed Bowsher, head of consumer finance at said.

"Perhaps it's also partly driven by your kind of personality. The kind of people who have the ambition to get a job that is earning 70,000 or more may be the kind people who are never going to be satisfied."

Challenging the belief that that money cannot buy happiness, 72 percent of respondents confessed that having more cash would make them happier, with 40 per cent of people earning £20,000 or less saying that they hardly ever felt truly happy.

My immediate thought is, what about us in Malaysia? At what salary level will we be "happiest"? I suspect for Asians, the propensity to "feel happy" is likely to be at a higher salary grade. Maybe, Asians love money too much? A good research topic!

Clowns in Haiti

On Tuesday (July 06), some of my SNHU students in the MKT222 class showed their video clips of their coursework – and one group actually took “Behind-the-scenes” photos and I am posting them here as a teaser. For sure, I will upload these clips soon, so be patient! I had thought that the said video clip was shot in an orchard – but after I saw these photos, I only found out that it was taken at Bandar Botanic in Klang! Lovely!

As Haiti tries to rebuild after January’s earthquake, charity Plan International has teamed up with Clowns Without Borders (founded in Spain in 1993) to bring some fun and cheer to the lives of Haitian children. The clowns formed part of attempts to provide psychological and social support to deal with emotional trauma and to try to help children regain a sense of normality.

Photos Credit: