Wednesday, April 27, 2011

RCI Revelations 3

Yesterday, I was attending the Taman Indrahana Toastmasters meeting and I heard two Sunway University students gave their maiden speeches, i.e. Mongolia’s Undarmaa Gansukh and Iran’s Mahan Rezaee. Altogether, there were six ice-breaker speeches – all from new members – and every one of these speeches were admittedly good. I am really proud of our new members. Twenty-seven came for this meeting and as expected, it was a fun meeting. One interesting thing, though, Teresa Chan, as our Language Evaluator was so determined to get us to improve our English that she took eight minutes plus to give her report. I remembered last Saturday’s Toastmasters meeting where I was told that in Singapore, this particular slot took up ten minutes – so maybe, we should seriously consider doubling up the time for the grammarian’s report.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Teoh Beng Hock’s death revealed the following:

MACC security guard Mohd Khairuddin Denan denied he was being coached about his testimony after he was caught red-handed referring to a note containing questions and answers. When RCI chairperson James Foong asked him why he didn’t patrol the then-Selangor MACC office hours before Teoh was found dead outside the office on July 16, 2009, he responded that “God didn’t move my heart to patrol (the office)”. Wow, this guard takes his instructions directly from God. Looks like Chairperson Foong has no choice but to summon God to testify now.

And today’s The Sun (p 03) has exposed the fact that no evidence was found to show Seri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah had abused Selangor government funds – meaning that Teoh Beng Hock’s death was needless! [Teoh was called in to the offices of the Selangor MACC on July 15, 2009 as a witness in investigations into the activities of his employer, i.e. Ean Yong].

I repeat, why did Teoh have to die? Doesn’t this make you angry? I am!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Utusan Race Rhetoric

I was at the Sime Darby Healthcare Toastmasters meeting yesterday. I was an evaluator for an Advanced speaker, and I was elated to hear him speak so well. But the other speakers were regrettably not even close to being good – their speeches were liberally peppered with grammatical faux pas and mispronunciation. I suppose two of them should be excused since they were making their maiden speeches. The other disappointment was that Jay Vee, who was the Toastmaster-of-the-Evening wasn’t her usual bubbly self – her get-up-and-go energy was manifestly missing!

This morning, I read about two clowns trying to score political points. First was Muhyiddin who broadly hinted that Utusan (who mooted the ‘1Malays, 1Bumis’ race rhetoric) represents the views of the Malays. And as if to mock the Chinese – well, some Chinese, according to this big-mouth himself – he further commented that “…some Chinese don’t know the feelings of Malays… the Malays know the feelings of Chinese” (The Sun, April 26, 2011, p 01, lines 42-44).

And second, The Malaysian Insider had Chua Soi Lek insisting that Utusan Malaysia does not represent all Malays. Chua too, tried to pour cold water over Utusan by offering a rejoinder: “Utusan does not even have the same circulation as The Star even though there are more Malays. We never say that The Star represents the voice of the Chinese,” he said of the leading English daily that is owned by MCA.

As I have said – it’s merely wordplay by two dim-witted dorks. Anyway, there are two interesting side-issues arising from the clownish repartee of the two politicians.

Chua had made the statement – in the same report – that “Utusan is not an official government paper even though it is majority owned by UMNO. The prime minister has already said that it does not reflect BN’s stance.” Of course, if you read what Najib had actually said, it was just doublespeak. Najib wasn’t actually disavowing the Malay-Bumi buffoonery – he cleverly said it was not reflective of BN’s stand; it is just that he had intentionally avoided not mentioning that it was UMNO’s stand!

And Perkasa patron Mahathir Mohamad had spoken out against the Utusan idea, saying it would be “disastrous” if it came to fruition. I sure hope he knows the meaning of this word. Yet, as the photo shows, Perkasa members were quick to take up the gauntlet to protest against the whining MCA:

Oh by the way, some say this ‘1Malay, 1Bumi’ ideology propagated by Utusan-UMNO is a direct challenge to Najib’s 1Malaysia! It’s akin to giving Najib a slap in the face. In reality, it is a sandiwara (playacting) because Najib too, doesn’t really believe in 1Malaysia. Otherwise, why would he allow so much racist hypebole to flourish?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fear Not the Bloggers

Najib Razak has made it very clear that “the government does not fear bloggers” (The Sun, April 25, 2011, p 02). He was delivering a keynote address at the First Malaysia-Asean Regional Bloggers’ Conference yesterday. With Mahathir Mohamad as Blog House Malaysia patron gracing this occasion – it will be interesting to know who were the Malaysian bloggers in attendance. Certainly, you won’t find the likes of Antares, Khoo Kay Peng, Patrick Teoh, Art Harun, Anil Netto and others there!

Furthermore, Najib affirms, no Internet censorship. Is it really true? Can he be trusted? Why don’t I believe him? So far, most of us get along okay – this is reassuring but for how long?

Arsenal's Premier League title challenge is all but over after Tamir Cohen's last-minute header secured Bolton a 2-1 victory. Arsene Wenger must be held accountable.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cheap, cheap, cheap

On April 01, 2011, I wrote about iPad and iPhone promotions – nope, it was not an April Fools’ joke. Rather these are paper product offerings for the Qing Ming festival. Today, the New Sunday Times featured a news story (p 10) where phones are sold for RM15. Mind you, these are the real stuff and they are available right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur – a place called Pasar Karat, located along the back alleys between Petaling Street and Jalan Sultan.

Here, peddlers offer a variety of products to customers from as early as 6 AM. Most of the products, sold at very low prices, are snapped up almost immediately. About four hours later, peddlers will abruptly pack up their wares and disappear. The reason for their clandestine trading? Many of the items sold are stolen goods. The rest are used or second-hand items.

Apparently, some people have bought 29-inch LCD television sets, the latest iPods, Nokia handphones and even iPads (the newspaper had mentioned RM350 as an indicative price). The traders who sell handphones have a wide range of choices with prices starting from as low as RM15 to RM100 each, depending on the model and condition.

According to a trader, the market was started more than 30 over years ago by a family of thieves and is, today, allegedly operated by a syndicate that collects a fee from each vendor.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Zulkifli Abdullah said it was not true that the police have not done anything. Hmmm, who is the public going to believe? These vendors are selling openly that even the newspaper can report on it and put this telling photo on page 1:

The grudge match between Celtic and Rangers ended in a scoreless draw. The SPL title race remains very close but Celtic will win the title if they win all five of their remaining fixtures. I reckon that shouldn’t be too difficult.

Hiding Behind Bushes

The Malaysian Insider yesterday carried the promise by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Khalid Abu Bakar that “traffic police will not be hiding behind bushes anymore to trap speeding motorists”. Or behind trees or billboards for that matter. Instead motorists will be warned about speed traps.

Well, this is the most sensible thing to have come from the police in a long, long time. Why hide if you are doing something right, right? I mean, there should not be anything to hide when you are enforcing the law, right? When you hide to entrap speeding motorists, does it serve to educate the guilty ones? Shouldn’t we be looking at another approach other than to punish? Besides, what is the purpose of having the speed trap? Is it for accident prevention? Or is it about catching the speed demons on our roads? Or maybe we want to impress the public that the police are doing a magnificent job – after all in that same news article, since September 2009, police have issued summonses to over 2.5 million motorists, mainly through speed traps and speed cameras?

Maxi Rodriguez was the hero of this EPL match when he scored a hat-trick as Liverpool kept up their pursuit of a Europa League place by hammering Birmingham 5-0. The Reds took control with two first-half goals, both neat close-range finishes from Rodriguez (7) and Dirk Kuyt (23). The third goal came when Luis Suarez advancing down the right, he picked out Maxi at the far post for a straight-forward volleyed finish (66). Ostensibly dissatisfied with just killing the game, Maxi then sealed his hat-trick with a low drive (73) and substitute Joe Cole added the flourish with a shot that snuck in (86).

As Phil Dawkes wrote in BBC Sport: “The result is a testimony to the optimism around Anfield these days, in stark contrast to the on and off-field gloom that characterized the respective reigns of former manager Roy Hodgson and ex-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks”. Yes, there is vibrancy about Liverpool’s play under Kenny Dalglish.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Meeting Ho Chin Soon

This morning, I attended a joint Toastmasters meeting of Premier Advanced Toastmasters Club and Singapore’s NTU Alumni Toastmasters Club. I knew the latter’s president Michael Chang when he dropped in at a KL Advanced Toastmasters meeting some time back, and this time, he was leading a delegation of six club members. We were told that this club makes a point of visiting Toastmasters clubs overseas and so far, they have made trips to Hong Kong, Perth, Kota Kinabalu and KL being their fourth destination.

There was a guest speaker, Ho Chin Soon (left), property researcher, map-maker and author – and although he was an interesting fellow, I was only glued to the part about how he became an author. I too dreamed of becoming an author and when he informed the audience how easy it was, it gave me renewed hope to see my book(s) published in the near future – once I have written my book(s) that is. I had all along believed that I needed to find a publisher but Ho compelled me to consider a more practical option – self-publishing. Ho had also promised to guide me when the time comes and I am very grateful. We exchanged cards.

I am not sure what drew in the crowd to this meeting – whether it was the Singaporeans or Ho – but I counted fifty-one attendees. The meeting room at Bankers Club, AMODA Building in Jalan Imbi was overflowing with Toastmasters and non-Toastmasters – the former coming from clubs such as ITC, Taman Indrahana, MIMKL, Metro, Summit, and not counting the two host clubs.

There were four project speeches, but I only enjoyed two of them. Azizah Sapari was wonderfully animated and Cheah Tong Kim was magnificently entertaining. Chrristine Ngiam who sat next to me even whispered that Cheah is very much a speaker in the mold of Victor Ong! Is that a compliment or what? I was disappointed with Marcus Chee though because I know him as a good speaker but today, his delivery was humdrum. He could have put more “zest” into his voice – after all, he was showcasing a radio talk show. The other flop was Selaine Lim whose speech was totally off the mark. For a person who is already a Competent Communicator, she should know better – she delivered CC speech # 7 ‘Research your topic’ but she disregarded its objectives. Anyway, it was a satisfying meeting overall.

Sunway University organized “The Red Carpet Event” on Thursday – offering students and staff a chance to network with some of the top companies in Malaysia. This was also where HR executives from the more than 30 organizations assembled at the Multi-Purpose Hall in order to receive CVs and inquiries from Year 2 and Year 3 students. The School of Business faculty also took the opportunity to meet up with these reps and we exchanged business cards as well as ideas. I foresee that we could collaborate with some of these companies on related projects that can provide our students with real learning opportunities in an actual business environment. I only managed to talk to Pfizer, Maxis, Bursa Malaysia, L’Oreal Malaysia, The Nielsen Company, Dell, Tesco, and Prudential. But it was a good start. Now I must do the follow-up.

Friday, April 22, 2011

No Foul Play

The Sun today on page 1 had City police chief DCP Zulkifli Abdullah saying that based on the post-mortem findings, the Sarbani case remained classified as sudden death and no foul play was suspected. Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed was among 62 customs personnel under investigation by the MACC for alleged corruption and money laundering. He had gone to the MACC headquarters just days after he was released on bail. About two hours after entering the building, he was found dead on a badminton court on the first floor landing – believed to have fallen from the third floor of the 5-storey building.

In The Malaysian Insider report on the same day, Sarbani’s family is dissatisfied with police investigations and claim his death is being covered up. They also want to know the “real story” behind his death plunge at the MACC office here on April 06, 2011 – the second such case in an anti-graft office.

On Wednesday, Utusan Malaysia called on their owners UMNO to spearhead a 1 Melayu, 1 Bumi movement involving all Malay parties, claiming that the DAP was intent on toppling the country’s Malay leadership. Yesterday, Perkasa answered the call. Their secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali explained: “The Chinese (have) been monopolizing the country’s economy for so long... now they want political control. Malays must unite, we need to preserve our political rights”.

Furthermore, this goof ball even mocked Sarawakian Chinese because he said he couldn’t understand why the Chinese community in Sarawak voted for Pakatan Rakyat (PR). “What is the problem of the Chinese in Sarawak? They have it better than those in the Peninsular,” he said (Webpage, posted April 21, 2011). Hello, what did he say? Is he suggesting that the Chinese here are not being treated well at all? Isn’t he actually expressing the sentiments of these Chinese? I wish sometimes these people who love to shoot off their mouths to learn to be coherent! I am not sure they can, though, since they are brain-dead.

Mun Mun Wins

Chiah Mun Mun (left), my student in the Marketing Management class was elected President of the Sunway University Student Council. I told her on Tuesday that I knew she will win. I had seen her working hard canvassing for support amongst students and she did what the other candidates didn’t quite set out to do, and that is, putting a personal touch to the election campaign. She deserved to win!

I was invited to participate in another Toastmasters demo meeting – this was a 2-day event held at Goldcourse Hotel in Klang and I was slotted in on the second day, i.e. yesterday – this meeting (officially called 'Mesyuarat Kepimpinan dan Pelaksanaan Toastmasters SBT 2011') was initiated by the Fully Residential and Excellence Schools Management Division, Ministry of Education. Again, I was a speaker, delivering CC speech # 4: How to Say It and I was repeating my ‘contest’ speech. My audience was English-language teachers from high schools that were identified as being in the ‘Excellent Schools’ category (or its Malay equivalent, ‘Sekolah Berprestasi TInggi’). They were introduced to Toastmastering and then, they were tasked to spearhead the start-up of Toastmasters clubs in their respective schools. Well, that's the plan anyway. As for my speech, I was my eloquent self. I know I did well with my speech because some of the teachers asked for my contact details, and since I did not have any more Toastmasters cards, I gave out my Sunway University business cards. So, I am promoting the university as well.

I didn’t report this earlier because I was not in the best of moods. It was a big disappointment to see Arsenal squandering a two-goal lead. Tottenham Hotspur rose to the occasion and matched Arsenal and the game ended in a 3-3 draw. The woeful Gunners again struggled to maintain their intensity throughout and Spurs were quick to punish them.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fake US Army

It is true that the US of A is a land of opportunity. It certainly rings true for a Chinese national, Yupeng Deng (left) although in this particular case, the opportunity was translated into a business venture that wasn't legit. As the story goes, Deng had allegedly duped unwitting Chinese immigrants into signing up to a fake US army unit. It’s a bogus venture alright – with elaborate stage props! Deng reportedly had a mocked up US recruitment office complete with US army insignia to lure in victims and called his unit the 'Military Special Forces Reserve Unit' (MSFR). He issued his new model army with combat fatigues, flags and fake military IDs and led parades through his local neighbourhood in LA before taking them to the decommissioned USS Midway aircraft carrier, which is a museum in San Diego.

This company of more than 100 fellow nationals paid between $300 and $450 – according to – to join his imaginary army unit. This is essentially a “cash for citizenship” scam. And it was profitable – until Deng was caught.

Sky News on April 14, 2011 mentioned that Deng’s alleged scam was uncovered after members of his MSFR unit were stopped by local police who spotted their fake IDs. Authorities have now charged Deng with theft by false pretences, manufacturing deceptive government documents and counterfeit of an official government seal. He is being held on bail and faces up to eight years in prison if convicted.

Celtic overpowered Kilmarnock by an impressive 4-0 score in this one-sided SPL game. A well-worked move saw Gary Hooper set up Kris Commons to fire in the opener after just four minutes. The Scotland international doubled his tally with a fine drive on 34 minutes, and followed by Hooper who struck from 18 yards (41). Anthony Stokes hit the roof of the net for Celtic's fourth in the 58th minute with a powerful shot from 10 yards. Celtic is on a roll.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lady Gaga's Body Mods

Lady Gaga's known for pushing the envelope when it comes to clothes – but this time, it’s a radical transformation if her latest make-over is anything to go by. The star first appeared on Jay Leno's Tonight Show on February 14, 2011 wearing a black PVC eye mask. She removed it halfway through the interview to reveal her angular new face – flesh-colored spikes that look like subdermal implants – the latest craze for people into extreme body modification in which metal shapes or even items of jewelry are implanted under the skin. There were two at her temples, two on her cheekbones and one on the bridge of her nose. And a pair of implant-style nodes on her shoulders too.

However, her spokesperson told MailOnline “'no comment” when it came to whether the star had actually had them surgically implanted, or whether they were just convincing prosthetics (Webpage

Lady Gaga’s new look is tied into the promotion of her latest record Born This Way, with the star keen to show her admirers it’s important to embrace who you really are. She had told the May edition of Harper’s Bazaar that the facial additions are her real bones. She claimed they have always been there, it’s just she was waiting for the correct moment to unleash them on the world. “They come out when I'm inspired,” she added. “It's artistic expression. It's a performance-art piece” (Webpage, posted April 13, 2011).

I doubt her explanation. As already mentioned above, it is probable that she is imitating a body modification trend called subdermal implantation, where people actually implant shapes beneath their skin.

Lady Gaga possesses an incredible passion for self-expression. She’s Lady Gaga after all.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Prattling Poppycock

Mahathir Mohamad wrote in his blog today that the Chinese community in Sarawak has rejected multiracialism after being infected by the virus of Chinese racism that he said is the guiding principle of the DAP. How he arrives at this conclusion befuddles me! He should know that Sarawakians rejected racism when they rejected BN, and not the other way around.

The former prime minister also accused the DAP of destroying the power-sharing formula that BN had implemented for half a century. He is talking rot because I believe power-sharing is alive and kicking. PKR, PAS and DAP have forged a partnership based on mutual respect. They are not afraid to voice out their disagreements and they do not shy away from quarrels. They are equals. They do not have to kowtow to one another. Unlike UMNO’s total domination over the other enslaved parties in the BN coalition. So, babbling Mahathir should just shut up! It’s kinda sad to see him degenerating by the day – so much so that he is prattling poppycock. I feel sorry for him for he knows not what he speaks.

It’s good to learn that Arsene Wenger has vowed to fight to the finish. “We have to give everything until the last game of the season and see if it is our year or not,” Wenger said. Let’s see if the Arsenal players are really ambitious or not.

Tsunami Characters

I am reproducing this posting I just saw at AltJapan – a weblog by Matt Alt, a Tokyo-based author and translator. It is something we can all learn when we try to educate the young especially.

Japan has a long history of using cute mascot characters in situations that can surprise Westerners. In fact, quite often the more terrifying or distressing a situation, the cuter the visual description of it becomes on official posters here. This may sound counterintuitive or even a little condescending at first, but when you start thinking about it, it makes perfect sense. Whereas, say, photos of damage or devastation would probably cause people to avert their eyes, this sort of presentation lures people into actually reading the sign – more so with children, as tsunami education needs to start early.

A 2007 poster for tsunami evacuation drills in the Sagami Bay area of Kanagawa prefecture (southwest of Tokyo).

A sign spotted in a Shizuoka suburb, explaining how trees can act as wind and wave breaks.

Of course, there's no way to know how many lives public-service campaigns like this saved in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. But similar to the ancient stone tsunami-warning markers (read my blog posting dated April 14, 2011) dotting the countryside, these cute characters are another example that natural disasters are never far from the minds of people in Japan.

Tsunami-man is one of a series of regional mascots from Shikoku's Kochi prefecture used to teach children about the dangers of earthquakes and tsunami. In fact, this reminds me of the myriad of monsters that Ultraman – a popular character featured in tokusatsu (special effects) television programs – has to battle against in order to save Japan.

Celtic will face Motherwell in the Scottish Cup final after routing semi-final opponents Aberdeen. Charlie Mulgrew's free-kick (49) put Celtic ahead and Joe Ledley's shot (57) doubled their advantage. Kris Commons converted Celtic's spot-kick (63) and finally, substitute Shaun Maloney tapped home the fourth on 84 minutes.

I had mixed feelings about this game between Arsenal and Liverpool – both of whom I am supporting and both teams needing to win. But my heart went out to the latter, and they did well to come back from a goal down to find an equalizer. Robin van Persie slotted in a 98th minute penalty after Jay Spearing brought down Cesc Fabregas and then four minutes later, Emmanuel Eboue fouled Lucas Leiva to allow Dirk Kuyt to grab a Reds equalizer from the spot.

So the 1-1 score, I suppose, was fair. As for Arsenal, they had their chances in earlier games but screwed up big-time. It may be too late to play catch-up with Manchester United. The Gunners are now six points behind Manchester United with six games left.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Flood of Birthday Greetings

Thanks for all the birthday greetings that I have received non-stop since Friday! In fact, after counting 234 messages, I stopped! One SUN-U student, Mschats Kevin even posted this YouTube video for me and the music is just awesome!

I came across this interesting illustration of a mousetrap in – well, it doesn’t so much as to trap the critter but kill it. It is said that way back in 1882, James Williams filed a patent for this varmint trap. He added that "This invention may also be used in connection with a door or window, so as to kill any person or thing opening the door or window to which it is attached".

When I saw the drawing, I remembered teaching my Marketing students about the 5 alternative concepts under which organizations design and carry out their marketing strategies: production, product, selling, marketing, and societal marketing concepts. And touching on the product concept, Philip Kotler would use the example of the mousetrap – that if manufacturers can build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to their door. Of course, we know that this is not really true because buyers are looking for a better solution to a mouse problem but not necessarily for a better mousetrap.

So the solution might be a chemical spray, an exterminating service, or something that works better than a mousetrap. Also, a better mousetrap will not sell unless the manufacturer designs, packages, and prices it attractively; places it in convenient distribution channels; brings it to the attention of people who need it; and convinces buyers that it is a better product.

Anyway, so much for a brief lesson on one of the marketing management orientations, i,e, the product concept. Now I begin to wonder what started this? I do ramble on sometimes!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

BN Still Wins Big in Sarawak

BN managed to keep their two-thirds legislative majority in Sarawak and Taib Mahmud is still in charge. But today’s results have shattered the coalition’s invincibility and the notion of a fixed deposit in future elections. The DAP doubled its presence to 12 (Padungan, Pending, Kota Sentosa, Batu Kawah, Repok, Meradong, Bukit Assek, Dudong, Pelawan, Kidurong, Pujut and Piasau), PKR won 3 (Ba'kelalan, Krian and Batu Lintang) while Independent George Lagong took one seat (i.e. Pelagus).

The opposition came up against a steamroller of a PM who will do pretty much anything to win an election. It is going to be pretty much the same at the next general election. And money politics was rampant. On the eve of polling, the going rate in Miri was RM1,000 per identity card and apparently RM7,000 in Ba’Kelalan (Webpage, posted April 16, 2011).

For those Sarawakians who voted for BN, I feel really sorry for you.

Disney Re-opening

Dr William Lau roped me in to help out in a Toastmasters Demo meeting at FCC in Bandar Sunway. There were other luminaries from other Toastmasters clubs helping out too – like Low Yat Seow, Dr Arulnathan, Sarah Abedi, NK Valli, Robert Ram, Meng Tze and Francis Ng. I did my ice-breaker – my speech title was “About Me” and this signaled the start of Round 5 of the CC manual for me! There were only two project speakers and the other speaker was Yat Seow. It was proposed that this soon-to-be Toastmasters club be called Faith Toastmasters Club. I like it!

Yesterday’s re-opening of Tokyo – the first time the park's been open for business since the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in March. While the quake reportedly caused minimal damage to the park itself, it caused severe damage to the town of Urayasu, where the park is located. Last week the Washington Post reported that the town was in ruins and described "severely warped streets and fences, tilted houses and police booths" (Webpage, posted April 14, 2011).

The same said that Disney will donate Y300 per visitor toward reconstruction of areas in northern Japan that are still recovering from the disaster. Charity wristbands will also go on sale beginning April 22nd. Disney has donated $2.5 million to the Red Cross relief efforts, and the company is also matching employee donations, up to $1 million.

The re-opening is solacing and heart-warming too because it tells the world that Japan is ready to get back on its feet. Thousands of visitors flocked to the theme park seeking a "sense of comfort". As one Tokyo Disneyland guest Mika Hasegawa told CNN: "We were so excited, we were almost crying".

A Glimmer of Hope

There is now a glimmer of hope for English students when the new £9,000 a year fees regime comes into force next year. It seems that further education colleges are amenable to offering cut-price degree courses for these students – according to this April 15, 2011 report filed in by The Independent.

A survey of more than 30 colleges which receive government funding to run degree courses shows the majority want to charge less than the £6,000 a year minimum fee suggested by the Government. Of the 31 who replied, 19 said they would be charging less – while the rest would opt for between £6,000 and £9,000 a year.

The findings are likely to mean many young people will switch to doing their degree courses at colleges – rather than attend universities with a lower ranking than the elite in university leaguer tables.

Universities Secretary David Willetts has this idea to persuade the FE colleges to act as a franchise for better-known universities – offering students an opportunity to study at them but using course materials supplied to the college by well-ranked universities.

These colleges often have lower overheads than universities because of the range of courses they provide including GCSE, A-level and even vocational courses. Willetts and Business Secretary Vince Cable have praised the “distinctive value” and vocational emphasis of higher education provision in FE colleges – there are over 260 of them teaching around 160,000 students. Less than half of these are funded by the Government's higher education funding watchdog, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the rest operate through franchise agreements with partner universities.

These FE institutions are like the colleges we have in Malaysia – particularly those that offer franchised British degrees although in Malaysia, their partners are, more often than not, bottom-placed universities (e.g. University of East London is ranked # 117; Bolton University is # 116; University of Derby is 91; and Coventry University is # 87 – to name just four tertiary institutions that are ranked poorly in The Guardian University Guide 2011).

And Taib's day of reckoning in Sarawak has finally arrived. Polling begins today. I remain hopeful.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Send Thank-you Notes

Oops! I forgot to report on the game between Celtic and St Johnstone on Tuesday, April 12. Firstly because I had expected Celtic to win. And secondly, because I was caught in the euphoria of Liverpool’s magnificent victory over Manchester City the day before. Anyway, predictably, Celtic won 1-0 and the solitary goal came courtesy of Baram Kayal (45+1).

Here’s a tip from CareerBuilder, which places people in jobs: Job seekers, don't forget that thank-you note.

The online employment website in the United States surveyed almost 2,900 hiring managers and found a candidate is unlikely to get past the first interview if he doesn't follow up with a note. Even the candidate most qualified for the position could lose out if he/she doesn't say in writing 'thank you' for the interview. The lack of a thank-you note sends a message about the job candidate's work habits, the hiring managers said.

22 percent of those polled said they are less likely to hire a candidate who doesn't send a note after an interview. And job seekers should send notes to everyone they met on the interview, emphasizing their skills and enthusiasm for the position. Of the hiring managers questioned, 86 percent said they get the impression the candidate isn't very interested in the job if the interview isn't soon followed by a thank-you note. Anything that can brighten up your chances should be considered, right?

'One-in-five hiring managers say they spend 30 seconds or less looking at a resume, so all your communications need to be professional and to the point,' the report said. If I may add, the resume must be attention-grabbing too.

The F-word

Eight colleagues/friends organized a birthday lunch at O'Viet in Sunway Pyramid. Thanks, guys!

I happened to see this article in the Star (p W45) yesterday and thought it was bewildering. It seems that Luke Webster, a British tutor was given the sack for gross misconduct in late 2009 after Sydney's Mercury Colleges discovered he used a worksheet featuring the 'f-word' in its unedited form in every sentence with a class of adults. Actually, the exercise encouraged them to discuss its many meanings and whether the word was being used as a noun or a verb in each instance. Of course, the college authorities, however, argued that "we are not in the business of teaching profanity".

For those of us who know the 'f-word' would already accept that this particular word is in wide circulation, and that in today's context, the word is not necessarily "offensive". In fact, Webster did explain how sometimes the word can be offensive, but in other cases – e.g. as an expression of surprise – it had a more benign meaning.

Besides, a word that is deemed offensive yesterday may now be totally acceptable in today's world. That's how words evolve, right? I do think that as long as we do not punctuate every single damn sentence with the 'f-word' just for the sake of adding color or to show off any sophistication in knowing a vulgarity or two, is permissible.

Webster, in a written submission to adjudicator Fair Work Australia, said that he was really teaching his adult students how not to use the 'f-word', which isn't clear to many studnets who have native English-speaking friends, or watch Hollywood movies, and who tend to overuse the word.

There was a happy ending because the tribunal's senior deputy president Lea Drake found that while the use of profanity in the course of a lesson could be a valid reason for dismissal, Webster's termination was harsh, unjust and unreasonable.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Costly Sarawak Election

A closer-than-expected Sarawak election is costing the BN more than RM500 million in the run up to polling this Saturday, say ruling coalition officials and reported by The Malaysian Insider (April 14, 2011).

Sarawak DAP chief Wong Ho Leng said that the onslaught had already begun during the campaign kick-off with allowances of RM300 offered for each vote. The incumbent for Bukit Assek said voters in each of the 15 DAP-contested seat had been given RM100 each and promised a further RM200 after polling day on Saturday. “As long as you provide them a photocopied MyKad to prove that you are a registered voter, you will get it.

“This is our only worry now.... how money politics will play out,” he said. The Malaysian Insider understands that funds are being used in marginal seats where PR candidates are putting up a strong fight.

BN is desperate to win at all costs. In another report today, Muhyiddin Yassin already appeared confident that Sarawak was in the bag for BN. In the end, it is entirely up to Sarawak voters to decide who they want. Their future is in their own hands.

Warnings from Ancestors

School of Business students have approached me to help start a Toastmasters Club. I have agreed but I told them they must take the lead in getting the approvals from the University authorities first. It is also my goal to have a dedicated Toastmasters Club for Sunway University – after all, Monash University, Taylor’s University, HELP University College, UniRazak, Multimedia University, Universiti Malaya and others have already established Toastmasters Clubs, so it is time we have one too.

When the earthquake struck northern Japan last month, and a tsunami followed after it – thousands perished, save for the inhabitants of one hamlet of Aneyoshi, Iwate Prefecture where a single centuries-old tablet saved the day (left).

'High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,' the stone slab reads. 'Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis.

Do not build any homes below this point.' It was advice the residents of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a devastating disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere.

Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old. Collectively they form a crude warning system for Japan, whose long coasts along major fault lines have made it a repeated target of earthquakes and tsunamis over the centuries. Yet, many of the Japanese had forgotten these warnings, or worse, chose to ignore them.

Japan had announced that it will cost as much as 25 trillion yen ($309 billion; £189 billion) to rebuild the country after the deadly earthquake and tsunami. The cost is about 6% of Japan's total economic output in 2010 and is the biggest estimate so far (Webpage, posted March 23, 2011).

And according to the World Bank, Japan will need up to five years to rebuild and recover from the damage caused.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Greece Still in Hot Soup

The Taman Indrahana Toastmasters meeting was another buoyant affair, and this time around, Extol’s SK Ratnam was the General Evaluator. There were twenty-eight attendees yesterday and as I had come to expect, speeches and evaluations were pretty good. I had taken on the role of the third evaluator – Yeoh Cheng Lim was delivering a “Speak Off the Cuff” speech from the Specialty Speeches manual. I particularly loved Alice’s table topic speech – her message was stunningly simple “Live It Up!” and Lim Thian Seng’s project speech which had the Garden of Eden Bar & Grill as a setting for his “play”. I had an enjoyable time!

I was intently reading about Greece in Gavin Hewitt’s blog (Webpage, posted April 12, 2011). If we recall, Greece succumbed to a dire economic situation that compelled the government to plead for a bailout. Yes, Greece was staring at bankruptcy a year ago. It got a reprieve with a debt mountain that was about 300 billion euros. And the hard-pressed government took the axe to the bloated and over-sized public sector. Hewitt described this blood-letting as a “cultural revolution”. The world of early retirement, holiday payments and tax evasion would be cleaned up. But over time the reforming zeal has faded. And austerity has reached its limits.

In a country that relies heavily on public spending the squeeze has dampened demand. Greece cannot escape the debt trap. The tighter the squeeze the more the economy contracts and the greater the debts pile up. GDP will shrink this year by 3%. Unemployment heads towards 14%. As far as Hewitt is concerned, Greece is still heading for bankruptcy. Debts are higher now. The debt-to-GDP ratio is over 140% and heading towards 158%.

The only way out for Greece before it implodes is to re-structure the growing debt. The reforms have been too painful and the people cannot take it any more. The Greeks will soon revolt, already there are stirrings of discontent. What choice is there? This can serve as a useful lesson for Ireland and Portugal too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Favorite Comic Book Heroes

I was browsing the April 2011 edition of MYC! this morning and when I turned to page 10, it brought back a flood of memories. It featured “Paperback Legends”, i.e. best-loved comic books. Besides my favorite MAD magazine, I was also into the following:


It has been a long time since I bought these comics.

In the EPL game between Liverpool and Manchester City, the former was in control from start to finish. And unlike Fernando Torres who has yet to score for Chelsea since his move there – Andy Carroll, who has been edging slowly to full fitness struck twice for the Reds – his first goals that severely put a dent in Manchester City's Champions League hopes as they were emphatically swept aside at Anfield. The final score was a very comfortable 3-0 score in Liverpool’s favor, of course.

The first goal came when Carroll who was lurking 25 yards out thrashed a low left-foot finish past the startled goalie Joe Hart (13) when Man City’s Vincent Kompany deflected the ball into his path. Dirk Kuyt scored the second with a perfect side-foot finish past the keeper (34), after which Carroll rose with Manchester City’s Aleksdander Kolarov to glance in Raul Meireles' angled delivery (35). This deserved win kept their slim European ambitions alive.

A Second Deathly Fall

I was tagged to photos taken at the April 04th event called “Freshies Nite” – organized by students from the School of Business – and they featured some of the staff members who graced the occasion. From the photos, it is obvious that the theme was “Hats On”. A fun evening.

I was disturbed to learn that MACC had claimed another life. Hardly had the memory of Teoh Beng Hock’s demise Ieave our collective consciousness – the RCI into his death is still ongoing – when news of a second fall made headlines again. It does look like people going to MACC have this urge to “jump” out of the window.

On April 06, 2011, Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed, a Customs officer died after falling from the third floor of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) building on KL’s Jalan Cochrane where he and others were being investigated for alleged involvement in corruption, money laundering and other offences. Perhaps the government should consider the setting-up of the RCI to investigate MACC?

This tragedy came on the heels of a March 28 joint operation was conducted throughout the country by a special task force made up of the MACC, the Inland Revenue Board, Customs Department and Bank Negara had busted a Customs syndicate responsible for billions of ringgit in tax evasion, money laundering and illegal funds outflows after raiding over 100 different premises nationwide. One report even mentioned that more than RM10 billion had been smuggled out of the country. Among the discoveries from the MACC operation were bank savings account of up to almost RM500,000; RM850,000 in a unit trust account; bags containing cash of RM625,250; five gold bars worth RM50,000; two imitation pistols with 241 bullets; luxury watches; and posh cars. Sixty-two officers were arrested and one of them was Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed – and he had reportedly been released on bail two days before that fateful day. This operation is still ongoing.

Why am I am not surprised that this is happening? Tongues have been wagging for a long time and only now there is action. Please, don’t stop there – what about Immigration, Police, and other branches of the government?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Contrasting Rallies in Kuching

Anna Chin invited me to the Phoenix Toastmasters meeting today where I was the General Evaluator. It was a special meeting because they decided to have a marathon speech session – featuring seven ‘young’ speakers. I was indeed pleasantly surprised to find the quality of tonight's speeches to be rather good, and this reflects well on the club. I was particularly impressed with Wong Shi Wen and Kevan Tan. It is not often that I attended club meetings where I enjoyed the speeches wholeheartedly – but today is one of those days!

Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali raised his discordant voice again when he warned Christians of testing Malays’ patience. “How many Malays are Christian(s)? Why do you have to have bibles in Bahasa? Why not use bahasa Iban, or Kadazan?” Ibrahim had asked.

This is a problem of national security ... we (Malays) have been far too giving, I want to remind them to not be excessive in their demands,” he said and then stressed that “They are not the majority of the country” (The Malaysian Insider, April 10, 2011).

Christians, please sedar diri!

On Sunday, clearly sensing the people’s growing disenchantment with Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, Najib Razak’s first message in his week-long campaign to skeptical Sarawak constituents was to reassure the local populace that a change in the state’s leadership was imminent. “Believe me, believe in me, when the time is right, we carry this out,” Najib pleaded in his speech (Webpage, posted April 10, 2011). Tell me, isn’t that reinforcing PR’s clarion call to Sarawakians? To ubah? To change?

Anyway, I am not interested in his inconsequential message – Najib can say what he likes and it doesn’t matter to me if Taib is furious with Najib – but I was examining photos of the two rallies held in Kuching on Sunday. One was Najib’s 1Malaysia assembly – see photos 1-3 above – and the other was an opposition event featuring Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Guan Eng and Nik Aziz Nik Mat. Also take note that at Najib’s function, attendees got a 1Malaysia t-shirt, flags, hamburgers and mineral water (The Malaysian Insider, April 11, 2011). Very revealing are they not? Notice the empty seats at Najib's 'big' function and also notice the standing-room crowd (see the fourth and fifth photos) at the 'bigger' oppostion rally!

Four Suicides

Above: A student in the KAIST campus in Daejeon walks past a hand-written poster protesting the school president's policies that stir competition, including a unique system under which students pay different amounts of tuition based on their grades.

Four students at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology(KAIST), an elite South Korean university, have taken their own lives this semester. The students were said to have suffered from extreme stress over school work and criticism has turned to president Suh Nam-pyo (left), a former MIT professor, who has introduced a penalty system which charges students extra fees for underachievement. On Friday, KAIST students started a signature-collecting campaign calling for Suh’s immediate departure (Webpage, posted April 09, 2011). Is academic achievement everything? Is grade point average the only measure of a person’s life?

Sunday Star’s (p N12) claim that the Alkitab issue was resolved with the decision by the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) to accept the Malay-language Bibles which had been defaced by the home minister is misleading. But that is not the only issue. The standoff is about freedom of religion and the narrowing of space for non-Muslims to practice their faith freely in this country.

How come Hishammuddin suddenly agreed with Idris Jala when the latter said on Saturday in Kuching that the 10-point plan was a Cabinet collective decision? Unless the Cabinet had an emergency meeting that nobody knew about? Of course, it goes without saying that the signs in Sarawak are not encouraging for BN. So really, it is not about the government being sincere but rather it has become a public relations exercise to try and keep the Christian vote. The government have not been honest in their dealings with the Christian community, full-stop. It is not about safeguarding the constitutional rights of non-Muslims. It is about safeguarding the ‘fixed deposit” that is Sarawak. Shame on the government to stoop so low!

Struggling Blackpool lost 1-3 to an Arsenal side needing a win to keep in touch with leaders Man United. The Gunners raced into a two-goal lead as Abou Diaby lashed in (18) before Emmanuel Eboue did the same (21). Gary Taylor-Fletcher prodded in (52) as the Seasiders pushed hard after half-time, but Robin van Persie's simple side-footed finish settled it (76) for Arsenal.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Communication Skills Wanted

The Sunday Star newspaper today front-paged this advice: “It does not matter if you are top of your class or have a string of degrees, that dream job will not be yours unless you can speak and write well in English”. Simply put, if you cannot communicate in English, how can you be expected to perform?

Feedback from local and international employers – consolidated into the MEF Salary Survey for Executives 2010 – shows that verbal and written communication skills in English remain the most sought-after attribute in prospective employees. This is reflected by the 68% of the companies that were surveyed that identified it as the top quality required in job applicants.

Yet many students are still not realizing this and if they do, they are not doing anything about it – they remain cocooned in their "tidak apa" mindset and hope that by the time they graduate, they would have made some headway in speaking and writing in English well enough to get a ‘good’ job. In short, they are leaving it to chance.

This myopia is ensuring that employers remain frustrated that they cannot employ many of the Malaysian graduates because of poor English, and those who did get lucky to be employed because of ‘better’ English – and I don’t mean ‘better’ as in ‘good-better-best’ but rather ‘better’ as in ‘better than poor’ English – they will still have to struggle before they can actually succeed in their chosen careers.

This is where Toastmastering can help them. A Toastmasters meeting is a learn-by-doing workshop in which participants hone their speaking and leadership skills in a friendly and supportive atmosphere.

There is no instructor in a Toastmasters meeting. Instead, members evaluate one another’s presentations. This friendly feedback process is a key part of the program’s success. Meeting participants also give impromptu talks on assigned topics, conduct meetings and also develop skills related to timekeeping, grammar and parliamentary procedure.

Members learn communication skills by working in the Competent Communication manual, a series of 10 self-paced speaking assignments designed to instill a basic foundation in public speaking.

Members also learn leadership skills by taking on various meeting roles and working in the Competent Leadership manual. In our learn-by-doing approach, we don't lecture our members about leadership skills; we give them responsibilities and mentoring to help. Then we ask them to lead.

Source: MEF Salary Survey for Executives 2010, Sunday Star, Malaysia, April 10, 2011, p N5.

And if you read the said news article again – you will notice that being involved in Toastmastering can help you fulfill six of the ten traits identified, i.e. verbal and written communication skills; interpersonal skills; passion and commitment; team player; desire to learn; and take initiative (p N5 and reproduced above).

I speak with authority because today, I can readily admit that my communication skills have clearly improved. And this is due to my decision to join Toastmasters International nearly three years ago – well, two years, nine months and nine days to be exact. I have successfully delivered 64 assignment speeches, excluding Table Topics and contest-type speeches.

Different Toastmasters clubs have different environments. And some clubs are really lively. I would highly recommend you one of the most dynamic Toastmasters clubs in the Greater KL Metropolitan area, i.e. Taman Indrahana Toastmasters Club. You have to attend their meetings to know how much you can learn!

And they have members who are very proficient in English – names such as Ho Fong Ming, LeAnn Tang, Dominic Joseph, Dr Devi Menon, Teresa Chan, Chrristine Ngiam, Kay Wong, Yeoh Cheng Lim, Victor Ong and others. As you will have read on page 1 of the above-mentioned newspaper, “globalization had changed the nature of jobs, making communication skills, specifically in English, a valuable asset for today’s worker”. Like it or not, proficiency in English is vital, very vital.

So, if you’re interested, please do contact their Vice President Membership, Yeoh Cheng Lim at 012 216 8068 or email him at I can promise you that you will speak better in English! I did!