Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My 3 Countdowns

This has nothing to do with the New Year countdown!

The Early Boozer

Hmmm, is it too early to start 'drinking' for New Year’s Eve?! 

Oh well, who cares!! 

Rosie’s Pale Ale is a craft beer from Ireland. According to the description, “it balances bitter citrus hop character with a soft malt body pushing through the aroma of grapefruit, orange peel and pine. All this is backed up with a light body of biscuit, bread and toasted malts”. 

It comes in a 330ml bottle with alcoholic volume 4.5%. 

My pick-me-up. Simply delightful.

Victoria is Ablaze as Fires Spread

Footage taken from an aerial view shows fires encroaching on a properties in Bundoora, a Melbourne suburb, Australia

Bushires in East Gippsland in Victoria, Australia on December 30, 2019

Scores of fires are burning out of control across Australia amid a heatwave which has seen temperatures exceed 40C (104F) in every state. 

On Monday, the fiercest fires were in the state of Victoria. 

Fire had threatened three Melbourne suburbs, i.e. Bundoora, Greensborough and Mill Park – with residents being warned it was too late to flee and they must “act immediately to survive”. 

Authorities had already declared a bushfire emergency as an out-of-control blaze bore down on homes in Australia's second-biggest city. 

In Bundoora – just 16 kilometres north of the city centre and home to two major Australian university campuses, i.e. La Trobe and RMIT — fire was “threatening homes and lives”, Victoria Emergency said. 

“You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive”, the agency said in a message to residents. "The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately. It is too late to leave". 

And about 30,000 residents and tourists who had initially been urged to flee East Gippsland – a popular holiday region – could not do so because evacuations were deemed too risky as fires encroached on major roads. 

That’s how volatile and dangerous the situation is! 

Across Australia, the fires have already destroyed four million hectares (9.9m acres) in five states since September. 

On Monday, I attended the KL Advanced Toastmasters meeting – my last meeting of 2019 – and there, I was both the Toastmaster and a speaker. 

I presented an Advanced speech from the Special Occasion Speeches manual, project #3 The Roast. 

Titled "El Presidente", it was a 3-5-minute speech where I poked fun at a particular individual in a good-natured way. 

That person was of course, Rohijas Md Sharif, the current president of two Toastmasters clubs, i.e. KL Advanced and KPP. I am serving with him in the latter as Vice President Public Relations as well as Vice President Membership. 

That meant I had completed my 850th project speech todate!

I have been a Toastmaster for exactly 4,200 days – and the total number of speeches I’ve done thus far is no mean feat. If you care to do your sums, I will have delivered, on average, one speech every 5 days. Since July 01, 2008. 

A pat on the back for yourself, Victor Ong! 

Photos of the said meeting:

Monday, December 30, 2019

Petition to Cancel Sydney's NYE Fireworks

Last year's New Year's Eve fireworks over Sydney Harbour in Sydney, Australia. Image credit: Dominic Lorrimer

At least 273,000 people have signed a petition calling for Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks to be cancelled and the money spent on firefighters, farmers and animal carers. 

Some A$5.8m ($4m; £3m) was reportedly spent on fireworks in Sydney last year, the petition says. 

Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore (left) said she had "been moved by the outpouring of support and care for the community" but that the event would continue as planned. 

After all, it is claimed that the fireworks were planned 15 months in advance and most of the budget had already been spent. Cancelling would have little practical benefit for devastated communities, it was said. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (left) backed the City of Sydney decision to go ahead with the fireworks display. 

"Sydney is one of the first cities in the world welcoming the New Year. If it is safe to do so, we should continue to do it as we have done every other year", Berejiklian explained. 

In any case, the Rural Fire Service had forecasted 'severe' fire danger for Greater Sydney on Tuesday and declared a total fire ban for the whole region. Not that it mattered because, according to The Sydney Morning Herald today, Sydney's NYE fireworks event received an exemption and will, therefore, proceed.

However, Australians who signed the Change.org petition said a firework display would be an "insult". 

"Australians all across the country need the money to rebuild their schools, their homes", said one person. "It's a matter of priority and this is where we show we care". 

Linda McCormick, who set up the page, said other communities in Australia were "cancelling fireworks and celebrating New Year in other ways".

Even Deputy Premier John Barilaro (right) had backed calls to ditch the fireworks. "[It's a] very easy decision", he said on Twitter. 

"The risk is too high and we must respect our exhausted RFS volunteers. If regional areas have had fireworks banned, then let's not have two classes of citizens. We're all in this crisis together".

The country has been grappling with furious bushfires due to record-breaking temperatures and severe drought. Already, the inferno is on Sydney’s doorstep – therefore, it’s best to forget about the fireworks. 

Be sensible. Be sensitive. Don’t squander millions on fireworks while the state burns. Don't make this a tasteless display of human excess. 

Advisory on Happy Xmas (War is Over)

This is just plain silly. Ridiculous even but John Lennon & Yoko Ono's Happy Xmas (War Is Over) official YouTube video which is an anthem for peace and the end of war now carries an advisory:

“The following content has been identified by the YouTube community as inappropriate or offensive to some audiences. Viewer discretion is advised”. 

YouTube conveniently forget that war is real! I wish Lennon was alive, he'd tell YouTube what's inappropriate! 

Sunday’s Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers saw the latter winning 2-1 and narrowing the gap with the former to 2 points with a game in hand. 

Ryan Kent’s stunning first-half strike put Rangers in front before Odsonne Edouard’s equalizer before the interval. And then, Gers’ Nikola Katic popped up to head home the winner in the 56th minute. 

Well done to Rangers – they deserved the win! 

And hours later, Liverpool battled their way to a hard-earned 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

Sadio Mane's 42nd-minute winner decided a tight match at Anfield and restored the Reds' 13-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Australia Burns Again

Back in early November, David Bowman, a professor of pyrogeography and fire science at the University of Tasmania had a bad feeling about Australia's thriving wildfires. 

The ingredients for wildfire hell had come together. The vegetation was exceptionally dry. There was no hint of meaningful rain. Winds howled through the country. And it was getting hotter. Eventually, Australia broke its record for its hottest day ever – two days in a row when an average maximum of 40.9C was recorded on December 17, broken a day later by 41.9C, both beating 2013's record of 40.3C. 

"I said 'this is unprecedented'", recalled Bowman (right). "The whole system was set up to burn". 

And all you need is a spark. The same thing happened in California, USA last summer. 

What's more, rainfall has been low in Australia this year, thanks to shifts in a climate cycle called the Indian Ocean Dipole, resulting in fewer clouds and storms forming near Australia. This means drought. Coupled with the extreme heat and the forests and grasslands are turned to kindling. 

And the fires did start. About five million hectares of Australia have burned and at least nine people have died. The most striking thing about the fires this time around is the continent-scale nature of the threat. 

The worst-affected state this year is New South Wales where 2,500 firefighters battle more than 100 blazes across the state, more than 30 of which are still not contained. 

Just an hour’s drive from Sydney, one "mega blaze" had raged across a 60km (37 mile) front north-west of the city. 

The fire in the Blue Mountains, a world heritage area and popular tourist destination, is some 64,000 hectares in size and out of control, the NSW Rural Fire Service said on December 22. 

The small town of Balmoral, south-west of Sydney, was largely destroyed and scores of homes were razed amid catastrophic conditions. 

Major roads south of Sydney have been closed and holidaymakers are advised to "revisit their plans" to travel, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. 

Thankfully, most Australians aren't literally in the path of Australia's flames – in any case, between one-third to a half of the Australian population won't escape its consequences, namely smoke saturated with tiny particles from burnt foliage and homes.

Authorities say the smoke that has smothered Australia’s most populous city as well as in other places has produced pollution up to 11 times greater than the hazardous level for human health. In Sydney, the air pollution has been hazardous for at least 30 days. 

Many Australians are already asking whether these fires are linked to climate change – but the science is complicated. Notwithstanding, scientists have long warned that a hotter, drier climate will contribute to fires becoming more frequent and more intense.

The Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Word

For many ardent movie buffs, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and 1964’s Mary Poppins are inextricably linked. Indeed, it was this film that popularized the word. 

This exceptionally overlong word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in the movie about the world’s coolest nanny is said to be simply a word used as "something to say when you have nothing to say". 

In any case, the 34-letter word actually appeared in print more than thirty years before Mary Poppins.

The earliest known written record of a variant is for "supercaliflawjalisticexpialidoshus" from an "A-muse-ings" column by Helen Herman in The Syracuse Daily Orange (Syracuse University), March 10, 1931. 

The columnist mused about her made-up word, describing it as including "all words in the category of something wonderful" and "though rather long and tiring before one reaches its conclusion... once you arrive at the end, you have said in one word what it would ordinarily take four paragraphs to explain". 

Additionally, you may use a shortened adjective form, supercalifragilistic, as well as the adverbial supercalifragilistically. These forms don't appear often – but when they do, they mean something along the lines of "wonderful" or "amazing". 

On May 08, 2019, I too had used the word in my post titled “Liverpool’s Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Goals” to describe the 4 times the Reds had scored and which represented their amazing comeback in the semi-final second leg match against Barcelona. Yes, they demolished the La Liga 2018-19 champions 4-0 to qualify for the Champions League final. 

And today, by chance, I found this YouTube clip by a barbershop quartet who are famous for combining harmony with humor called The Newfangled Four. Their members are Jake Tickner, Jackson Niebrugge, Ryan Wisniewski and Joey Buss and here, they performed a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious song on that uplifting word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. Enjoy!

[Additional Notes: A barbershop quartet is a group of four singers who sing music in the barbershop genre of singing, which uses four-part harmony without accompaniment by instruments, a style called a cappella. 

It consists of a lead, the vocal part which generally carries the tune/melody; a bass, the part which provides the bass line to the melody; a tenor, the part which harmonizes above the lead; and a baritone, the part that completes the chord with the note not being sung by the lead, bass, or tenor singers. The baritone can sing either above or below the lead singer].

Check out their other songs:

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Force is Strong with The Rise of Skywalker

The cinematic masterpiece that is Joker has finished its run – and according to Box Office Mojo, its cumulative ticket sales as at December 23 totaled $1,062,994,002. 

And I will say it again. Joker is a damn good movie! 

Meanwhile the new kid on the block, The Rise of Skywalker is already here and doing well. 

The movie has hauled a total of $374 million globally, making it the smallest box office open of the trilogy following 2015’s “The Force Awakens” and 2017’s “The Last Jedi” – which each brought in $529 million and $450 million, respectively. 

In fact, the New York Times noted that “The Rise of Skywalker” had worse reviews than any other “Star Wars” feature since 1999 – it obtained a 55% score on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 91% for “The Last Jedi”. 

LOL, nothing matters because the final chapter of the Skywalker saga will soar to great heights and yes, it will easily breach the $1 billion mark in ticket sales. 

Sure, it received harsh reviews – but “The Force” is strong with this latest “Star Wars” film. 

Moreover, “Star Wars” has a dedicated fanbase that has enjoyed the franchise for decades and these loyalists can be expected to see the film regardless of whether the reviews were kind or not. Besides, it is never going to be easy to please a massive and diverse fanbase. 

Therefore, as at Boxing Day, box office receipts have already reached $572,096,816. 

And no, I have still not watched The Rise of Skywalker, if you’re wondering! 

Since we are making reference to the Star Wars franchise – here are eight interesting facts you may or may not know about the legendary science fiction movie saga: 

The Ewok language is a combination of Tibetan and Nepalese. 

Chewbacca's voice is an eclectic mix of other animals, e.g. bears, walruses, lions, and badgers. 

The noise a lightsaber makes is created by combining the hum of an old television's picture tube and the buzz of a film projector's motor. 

The sound of a TIE Fighter engine was created by combining an elephant bellow and a car driving on wet pavement. 

Return of the Jedi almost had a very different ending – In a story development session for Return of the Jedi, George Lucas toyed with the idea that after Luke Skywalker removes dying Darth Vader's helmet, he puts it on, proclaims "Now I am Vader" and turns to the dark side. 

Yoda has no determined species – A mystery, it is. 

Yoda was almost played by a monkey – According to the book The Making of Star Wars by JW Rinzler, George Lucas originally planned for Yoda to be played by an adorable monkey wearing a mask and carrying a cane. 

Yoda is not a Muppet – Legendary Muppeteer Frank Oz voiced Yoda and Jim Henson oversaw his creation, but he was built by a member of Lucasfilm. So don't expect to see him at Kermit's holiday party.

Communists Infiltrate Malaysia, If You Believe Morons

The Pesta Chingay is a yearly parade in Penang that is very much a part of the tourism calendar – and this year, it was held in Jalan Raja Uda, Butterworth on Sunday, December 22. 

One person had recorded and viraled a clip of the said procession and branded it “a communist procession”, adding that “they’re getting so much braver now!” 

His outrageous claim that communist flags were unfurled at the Chingay event were actually, KIWANIS flags, according to Seberang Perai Utara district police chief Noorzainy Mohd Noor.

The person who is obviously brain-dead had taken KIWANIS to mean ‘Communist’ (‘Komunis’ in Malay). A first-class idiot! 

[KIWANIS are an international service club and their motto is "Serving the Children of the World", in case you don’t know!] 

The police are currently hunting the individual. 

It would seem that the communist is Malaysia’s latest bogeyman. 

Sharkawi Ishak (left), popularly known as ‘Ustad Rempit’ who spoke at a December 20 event organized by Muafakat Nasional, the UMNO-PAS partnership, in Permatang Pasir, Penang, too, had come out publicly to proclaim that Malaysia is ruled by communists who “only look after their race and want to destroy Malaysia”. 

I presume he was referring to Malaysian Chinese. 

Police reports have been lodged against the preacher.

Geez, I didn't realize we have so many morons in this country!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Ri-Lee Howell, Jedi Master

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte student Riley Howell (left), 21, who died during a shooting on University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s campus on April 30 has been officially honored as a Jedi Master by his favorite franchise: Star Wars. 

As the gunman opened fire, Howell charged at him, and police said his actions “absolutely” helped stopped the attacker from killing more people, and from the incident being classified as a mass shooting. 

“He took the fight to the assailant. Unfortunately he had to give his life to do so, but he saved lives”, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney told reporters the following day. 

In the said incident, two people were fatally shot (Howell and 19-year-old Ellis Parlier) and four others were wounded. 

Media reports and obituary tributes after Howell’s death noted his love of Star Wars, such as ABC affiliate WLOS’s story that included his younger brother Teddy saying, “He’s the only 21-year-old, who would willingly fight his lightsaber with me”. 

News of Howell’s fandom later reached Lucasfilm, the production company behind Star Wars. 

Howell’s name was then re-imagined for the name of a Jedi – who are described as guardians of peace and justice in the Star Wars universe’s Galactic Republic – in the book Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – The Visual Dictionary, which was released on Friday to accompany the premiere of the movie Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. He became a character called “Ri-Lee Howell” – a “Jedi Master and historian” credited with compiling “many of the earliest accounts of exploration and codifications of The Force”. 

Lauren Westmoreland, Howell’s long-term girlfriend celebrated the tribute in a video posted to TikTok, in which she thanked Lucasfilm for the tribute and wrote in a caption: “I’m so lucky to know a Jedi master”. 

And she wrote in the video: “Thank you for giving my love the best Christmas gift this year and making him part of the Star Wars universe forever”. 

Yesterday, Liverpool steamrolled past Leicester in a largely one-sided match where the latter were totally outclassed. The Reds thrashed the Foxes 4-0. 

First, a corner that saw Trent Alexander-Arnold delivered from deep on the left, as Roberto Firmino made his run to the far post and planted a brilliant header from close range in the thirty-first minute. 

The second came when a penalty was awarded for a handball by the other side’s Turkish defender – and which James Milner put straight down the middle in the seventy-first minute. 

The third was three minutes later when Trent crossed low and Firmino took a touch before curling a side-footed strike into the top corner from eight yards. 

And the fourth saw Trent racing half the length of the pitch to smash into the corner of the net in the seventy-eighth minute, after Sadio Mane teed him up. 

Jurgen Klopp's side certainly played like title winners! 

Brendan Rodgers and his team had thought they have an exceptional season thus far – admittedly, they are still second in the table – and yet the Reds on Thursday brought them down to earth with a big loud thud. 

A harsh reality check for the Foxes. 

It was pure dominance on display from start to finish by Liverpool as they secured a 13 point advantage at the Premier League summit, with a game in hand, which sees the unbeaten run in the topflight stretch to 35 games.

The Allegation On Altantuya Shaaribuu’s Murder

I want us to revisit this MediaRakyat video.

It has Americk Singh Sidhu, the late PI Bala's lawyer, speaking at SUARAM's Scorpene Fundraising Dinner in Petaling Jaya, Selangor on July 19, 2013 on the allegation on Altantuya Shaariibuu’s murder:

It is very telling! As I have said, no “sumpah laknat” can save Najib Razak!

The Attorney-General must re-open investigations! It's time to find the real truth!

BTW, kindly watch this short film about a wealthy family who discovers a bizarre request in their deceased patriarch's will:
After viewing the above, I’m just thinking. 

What if somebody makes a real dummy of Altantuya and then put her on display outside Najib’s KL residence?! I wanna see Najib getting all shook up having to see her all day and night!!

On Boxing Day, Celtic comfortably beat St Mirren 2-1 in this Scottish Premiership match. 

Goals in a 10-minute first-half spell from Callum McGregor (22) and James Forrest (32) secured an eleventh consecutive league win for Neil Lennon's men – and although the Buddies netted a reply in the eighty-ninth minute – that was all the latter could manage.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Footwear Depicts Instant Noodles

The fashion world is known for constantly reinventing itself and for pushing boundaries – but sometimes, it may just venture too far to the point of becoming fatuous. 

Bottega Veneta had debuted their 2020 pre-fall collection and some of the shoes had caught the attention of eagle-eyed shoppers  and one particular design was singled out and derided.

This one possessed an intricate pattern that looked suspiciously similar to instant noodles.

It came in a light tan and pale yellow, looking exactly like the squarish brick of noodles students ravenously gulp down during college days. And more often than not, crack an egg on them for a gourmet touch. 

In fact, Instagram account DietPrada posted side-by-side comparisons of the £800 shoes along a packet of noodles which, naturally, sent social media into a frenzy. The post racked up more than 89,000 likes, with many people quick to mock the food-themed footwear.

One person commented: “Seasoning packet included or nah?” 

Another joked: “Guess she’ll be ready in 3-4 mins?” 

“Edible sandals, eh”, added someone else. 

And there are some individuals who said they couldn’t get enough of the unique shoe. “Makes me want them even more honestly”, said one fashion lover.

This makes me think I would dearly love to see a pic of the shoe in a bowl! 

BTW, the shoe also resembled Justin Timberlake’s NSYNC hair (left). 

But I don’t think the Italian fashion brand’s creative director Daniel Lee will take too kindly to this comparison! 

This evening, I delivered my CC#10 speech titled Just Breathe, Just Breathe  and this means, I am done with my Competent Communication manual, #65. Truly, an outstanding achievement, if I may say so myself.

I mean, how many Toastmasters do you know who have completed the said manual 65 times and still counting? 

The total tally of my Communication and Leadership awards from Toastmasters International todate now stands at 124: 

Anyway, I was at the UNIPAC Toastmasters meeting at the HICOM-Glenmarie Industrial Park in Shah Alam, Selangor – and besides being a speaker, I was also the General Evaluator.

I must say it was an excellent meeting. The room layout, the food (I can't forget the coffee), the ambiance, the attendance, the Table Topics, the speeches and the evaluations – every aspect of the meeting went exceedingly well. Yes, I enjoyed it tremendously. 

Thumbs up to UNIPAC Toastmasters!