Thursday, March 31, 2016

Adenan Satem Throws His Support Behind Najib Razak

Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem has declared that he supported PM Najib Razak for the sake of development.
“I want to make more money for Sarawak – that is why I support the Prime Minister, because I know he can help us”. According to a Star report published on Tuesday.
Already, this March Najib was in the state twice. Adenan praised Najib because the latter had been to Sarawak nearly 50 times in six years, more than all the past Prime Ministers put together.
I guess, Najib knows how much he needs Sarawak’s support. His political survival depends on Sarawak. 
And Adenan too is embracing Najib’s famous clarion call “You help me, I help you!” – if you can recall the latter’s speech he made in May 2010 to the Sibu electorate.
The FBI do not need Apple’s assistance anymore.
It seems they had managed to unlock the iPhone used by the San Bernardino terror attacker. It was unclear who helped the FBI access the phone and what was stored on the device – but news reports have said the FBI may have sought assistance from an Israeli forensics company. 
As such, the heated legal standoff with Apple that had pitted US authorities against Silicon Valley ceased. 
Apple, backed by a broad coalition of technology giants like Google and Facebook, was fiercely opposed to assisting the US government in unlocking the iPhone on grounds it would have wide-reaching implications on digital security and privacy. 
I was at the IICS Toastmasters meeting yesterday where I was the General Evaluator. There were only 15 of us but it was still a fun meeting.
I befriended some guests first-timers and I believe they will sign up as Toastmasters. Joining Toastmasters is a no-brainer, really!


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

It's Raining Money on Najib Razak

Image credit:

PM Najib Razak didn't just receive RM2.6 billion. He received a lot more!
So much money was pouring so rapidly into his personal bank accounts that it rang internal money-laundering alarms inside AmBank, a major Malaysian institution part-owned by Australia's ANZ.
In fact, Najib received at least RM4.2 billion ($1 billion). If you can recall, this was first revealed by The Wall Street Journal, and now confirmed by ABC Australia.
Between opening his account at AmBank on January 13, 2011 and April 10, 2013, Najib received a total of more than $1 billion – or, more precisely, $1,050,795,451.58 – including a series of individual deposits that ranged between $9 million and $70 million. Inside the bank, his account was held under the codename "Mr X".
Bank records had detailed how Najib used his new-found wealth. Much of it went to political affiliates in the lead up to Malaysia's last election in May 2013, including party officials, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Sarawak United People's Party, as well as many advertising and media firms.
He also directed checks to prominent businesspeople, academics and lawyers.
And payments were made too that were clearly non-political. These include RM360,000 spent with fashion house Jakel Trading, RM395,782.40 at the Shangri-la Hotel Kuala Lumpur, RM178,000 spent with a company called Two One Holidays Malaysia and another RM167,959.50 with Signature Exotic Cars, a dealer that specializes in Audi, Mercedes Benz and Porsche.
The startling new banking records had been obtained as part of a Four Corners news report – Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s investigative program – that aired on Monday, and which resulted in the arrest of two members of its team, Linton Besser and cameraman Louie Eroglu.
Not surprisingly, Najib did not respond to written questions from Four Corners. How could he? Why should he?

But really, I am more interested to know, who will send Najib to jail?
On Tuesday, I was in KL’s Menara Maxis where I was an Evaluator to a CC#7 speech. The Maxis Toastmasters meeting was one big speech marathon – a total of eight assignment speakers.
I won't deny that I was uncomfortable because all the speakers save one used visual aids, mostly PowerPoint slides. I don’t think this should be encouraged because we should be comfortable speaking on our own. Using language.
Remember, we breathe and live words. Didn’t Confucius himself said: “Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know more.”
Indeed, words have power!


Batman versus Superman

Caped confrontation. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Photograph: Clay Enos/AP

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was an eagerly anticipated movie. The trailers did a good job to tease, seduce and lure us. Just so to witness two superheroes in a $250 million clash that is a smashing spectacle of potent power.

The Batman and Superman fight is as brutal and ruthless as it is boring. Boring because it ended with a whimper. The fisticuffs come to an abrupt stop when Batman finds out that his mom and Superman’s mom share the same first name! How corny is that?

The storyline is somewhat long-winded and a tad confusing. But if you can brush aside the froth and the fluff, the plot is simple enough to understand. A trite silly really. Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) wants to fight Superman because the latter caused devastation to Metropolis. Methinks Batman is plain jealous of Superman. Or if he is not – he isn’t smart enough to see past scheming Lex Luthor’s trickery. And that is a shame really because I am a fan of Batman.

The combat between the two cannot end the movie because Batman goes soft on Superman. So Luthor’s creature is unleashed when the mad scientist – with his signature unkempt hair and his nervous tics and his tendency to half-swallow his words – messes about with genetics and a giant amniotic sac inside a kryptonite ship. 

BTW, kryptonite isn’t as rare as it is thought to be since everybody is able to get their hands on it.

Anyway, another epic battle begins where Batman and Superman are joined by Wonder Woman and all three confront the monstrous behemoth called Doomsday before finally defeating it.

And the manner in which we are introduced to Wonder Woman is farcical. She appears at parties where Wayne is invited to. Her objective is perhaps, to annoy him, it would seems.

Until the two battles smash their way into our consciousness, the movie meanders along – most times clumsily – and for some reason I don’t quite understand, it is pregnant with dreams.

The movie starts with a dream. Wayne’s parents being gunned down in front of a movie theater. This is intercut with the young lad tumbling down a hole where he discovers a massive gathering of bats in a cave. These bats swarm around him, magically lifting him up and out of the hollow as he strikes a Christ-like pose.

Then Batman has a second dream, where Superman has become a fascist dictator with his own army of stormtroopers. Batman is a lone freedom fighter rebelling against Superman’s iron rule. At the end of the dream, Superman punches a cavity in Batman’s chest. Batman wakes up and sees The Flash inside a time vortex. Please don’t ask me how I know – I just knew! Flash is seen to explain some important plot points for another movie, then disappears. Again, don’t ask me.

Superman also dreams. It has him flying off to some desolate, snow-covered landscape. And Clark Kent (aka Superman) imagines seeing his father throwing bricks onto a pile of other bricks while telling a story about inadvertently ruining the lives of his neighbors during a flood.

I cannot, for the life of me, fathom its relevance to the movie but hey, I am not the scriptwriter. Maybe, Superman has visions of his dead dad in the middle of nowhere in order to tell us that Death is now stalking him. I am just speculating – whatever it is, I can’t make any sense out of it.

I also wonder why “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned).

Anyway, I did go and watch the movie. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t that bad either. I guess I am a comic book fan, that’s why.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Malaysian Kuih

Picture by KE Ooi
Malaysian kuih is an interesting mix of bite-sized delicacies with Malay and Peranakan origins.
The local kuih, some are Malay and some are Nyonya or Peranakan, comes in many forms, shapes, sizes, colors, textures and flavors. Some are sweet, some are savory, some are rich and thick, some are smooth and light, and some are even spicy and fragrant.
Most of the local kuih are steamed, baked and even grilled and made from local ingredients such as tapioca, glutinous rice, rice flour, cornstarch, plain flour, gula Melaka (palm sugar), and natural colorings such as from the pea flower.
Some Nyonya kuih such as the kuih lapis or kau chan kuih (translated to mean "nine layer kuih" in Hokkien), rempah udang, kuih tai tai and huat kuih are usually served at weddings, each carrying an auspicious meaning so the happy couple can lead a prosperous, healthy and happy life.
The origins of each type of these kuih are hard to trace as many have a little bit of Malay influences, a little bit of Indian influences and a little bit of Chinese influences, making them a truly Malaysian delicacy although many of these kuih are often labelled as Nyonya kuih.
The most commonly found kuih has to be the kuih talam, with its smooth soft green layer but a totally different texture and taste for the white layer. The kuih talam is made from a mix of rice, tapioca and green pea flour where the green layer is tinted and flavoured with the juice of pandan leaves (screwpine leaves) while the white layer is a creamy confection made with the same mix of flour given a rich, savoury taste with the addition of coconut milk. The kuih talam is the one with the thin white layer on top and the thicker, soft green layer at the bottom.
Also, the reason it is called kuih talam is because it is traditionally steamed in a talam, which means tray in Malay, before it is sliced into bite-sized pieces.
Seri Muka, which is also very popular, is sometimes available in brown and white but the most common is the green and white version. Unlike the kuih talam, the soft custard layer of green is on the top and the firm, chewy glutinous rice layer on the bottom. The top layer is sometimes prepared using the same ingredients as the kuih talam but depending on each individual recipe, sometimes it is only made of cornstarch, flour and coconut milk. As for the glutinous rice layer, it is a thick rich layer of soft steamed glutinous rice with coconut milk and a pinch of salt to bring out the coconut flavour. Similarly, the Seri Muka is also usually steamed in a large tray and then sliced into pieces.
Another commonly found kuih is the kuih bengka, the yellow tapioca cake made from grated tapioca. It is chewy with a nice bite to it and it is flavored with just the slightest bit of sugar. There are also smoother versions of the kuih bengka, made from flour, and these usually come in white, brown and purple.
The kuih lapis or kau chan kuih is a favourite among children due to its pretty layers of colours. Like its name suggests, it is made up of layers of white and red ending with the red layer on top.
There is no fixed time to have a kuih because you can eat it any time of the day, as a snack or as dessert, and even as a meal on its own.
There are too many different types of kuih available to list them all but the above is a good sample that you can still commonly find at roadside stalls, in wet markets, in some modernized cafes, at some restaurants and even coffee shops.
Indeed, our local kuih is still very much a part of the diet of a typical Malaysian.
I was at the SJMC Toastmasters meeting on Monday where I presented a CC #7 speech titled “The Pareto Principle” and that won me the Best Speaker award. And I won Best Table Speaker award too.

This was a good meeting because you can just feel the energy and enthusiasm – not commonly experienced at this Toastmasters club.
Two project speeches were originally slotted but yesterday, we get to hear four speeches. And as for Table Topics, usually the SJMC people would just accommodate 3-4 speeches – yesterday, we had six.
Let's hope this experience will be repeated!

Monday, March 28, 2016

DC's Big Fight


If you’re an avid comic book fan – more so, Marvel and DC comics – then Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a must-see!
It doesn’t matter if most critics didn’t like the movie because you’ll still go to the cinema and catch it. You couldn’t care less if the Rotten Tomatoes score was just 30% – you’ll still fork out the money and purchase the movie ticket.
And so it is not surprising that Batman v Superman has taken $424 million (£300 million) at the box office worldwide in its first five days despite the overwhelming negative reviews.
The global total – the fourth-highest ever – included $170.1 million in the United States alone and which is a record for a March debut and the sixth-highest US opening weekend.
In case you didn’t know, this DC Comics adaptation, costing more than $250 million to make, was Warner Bros' second-highest international opening after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
The film that brings the two superheroes together for the first time, is indeed, a welcome success for Warner Bros.
The BBC's Mark Kermode described it as a "crushing disappointment", while Kate Muir wrote in The Times: "This superhero-smorgasbord melts into an electric soup of CGI."
They may not like the movie but Jeff Goldstein, head of distribution for Warner Bros, correctly said: "There was a disconnect there between what critics wrote and the fan interest and the fan response.''
That is so true! No comic book fan can afford to give it a miss – not when it features Batman and Superman. And the icing on the cake is Wonder Woman.
And another thing that draws us in! The fact that Batman will exchange blows with Superman. Two of the most famous good guys in pop culture can’t really be enemies – can they? If I want to get cynical, I would believe that it is all a cash grab engineered by DC and Warner Brothers.

Believe me, the movie will continue to do well!
World No. 2 Nicol David's hunt for a sixth British Open title (March 21-27, 2016) met a dead end as she was shown the exit by Egypt’s Nour El Sherbini. Sadly, she played well only in patches as world No. 5 Nour extended her dominance with an 11-6, 2-11, 11-9, 11-6 win on Saturday.
David had made the semi-finals after a convincing 11-4, 12-14, 12-10, 11-2 win over long-time rival world No. 6 Omneya Abdel Kawy in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Never mind, David – try again! You can be champion. And you will be champion. 
I believe in you, Nicol David!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Flip-flop Over Plain Ciggie Packaging

Malaysia had trumpeted that it had wanted to legislate to have cigarette packs in plain packaging.
But on Monday, it made an about-turn and said it will not implement it – at least, not now. It gave the excuse that it wanted to first conclude talks with the cancer stick pushers in order that the country does not violate any intellectual property laws!
What a lame excuse!
Didn’t Malaysian authorities know that Canberra had already defeated legal challenges from tobacco companies in Australian courts on its ban on branded cigarette packets?
“The message to the rest of the world is big tobacco can be taken on and beaten,” said Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon – whose father, a smoker, had died of cancer when she was ten.
“Without brave governments willing to take the fight up to big tobacco, they'd still have us believing that tobacco is neither harmful nor addictive.”
Sure, Australia still faces a challenge over plain packaging at the World Trade Organization, which is hearing complaints made by Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Cuba, which claim it violates WTO agreements by creating an unnecessary barrier to trade and impeding the use of trademarks.
But let’s not forget that the ‘plain packaging’ ruling is a legitimate public health measure that is meant to discourage impressionable people from taking up smoking.
The primary impetus for plain packaging has been acres of tobacco industry internal documents and unabashed advertising in industry trade magazines highlighting the importance of the pack as the frontline of tobacco promotion, particularly in an era when tobacco advertising bans are growing exponentially.
A 1985 industry document had, in fact, explained: “If you smoke, a cigarette pack is one of the few things you use regularly that makes a statement about you. A cigarette pack is the only thing you take out of your pocket 20 times a day and lay out for everyone to see. That’s a lot different than buying your soap powder in generic packaging.”
And a 1999 article in World Tobacco (vol. 170, p 16) advised: “if your brand can no longer shout from billboards, let alone from the cinema screen or the pages of a glossy magazine… it can at least court smokers from the retailer’s shelf, or from wherever it is placed by those already wed to it”.
A cover story of the trade magazine Tobacco Journal International spelled it out even more clearly in 2008: “Plain packaging can kill your business.”
Plain packaging sends out a clear message that cancer sticks are exceptionally dangerous. The finely-crafted elegance of a cigarette box should never be allowed to sit alongside confectionary and other edibles in a retail outlet.
Cigarettes kill, slowly but surely!
On Thursday, I went to the Malaysia Institute for Supply Chain Innovation, which is located at Persiaran Tebar Layar, Seksyen U8 in Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam in Selangor for the MISI Toastmasters meeting. At the invitation of Area C1 Director, KM Srinivas.

I was the General Evaluator and admittedly, it was an interesting meeting.